Help for the Hard Days

9

I love running.

Having said that, I am fully aware not everyone is as smitten with this activity as I am. In fact, I have multiple friends on Facebook who — after I post about a great morning run — love to post variations of the following anti-running meme:

running meme

Whether you adore running as much as I do or hate it like the plague, please allow me to utilize its metaphorical elements to explore something with you that God showed me during my most recent 10K event.

This particular race was in the backwoods of a local park. It was a dense area, and the running trail was, most of the time, only about 12 inches in width. There were moments when the path was straight and free of debris, but there were also lengthy intervals during this run where the path was rocky and/or riddled with tree roots that had popped up into the trail.

At times like that, I maneuvered around the dangers as best I could, but there were a few moments where I stumbled despite my best efforts. There were other points in the course where the trail was so steep, I couldn’t run up it. I had to walk — at what seemed like a snail’s pace — to make it up those hills before I could finally get to an area where running was possible again.

Now, stop a minute and reflect on that because I didn’t just describe the course for my recent race; I described life.

There are moments when life is simple, and your path is clear. It’s easy to run and not grow weary. But then obstacles, challenges, pop up and life gets confusing. The days seem like a never-ending uphill battle, and you can hardly function. Thankfully, though, time passes and circumstances change. Finally, living becomes possible again.

Like running a race, living life can be hard. But give praise to God, races, like the seasons in our lives, have finish lines to look forward to.

 

Lately, I have been experiencing countless moments where, by the end of the day, the stress of life so debilitates me that doing simple tasks is like trying to run up a steep hill — with the force of gravity beating me backwards every second.

I find myself beyond exhausted at the close of each day. I’m left in a weakened state. I feel spent, weary, and crippled. As if I’ve run a marathon!

It is in times like these, when life feels impossible and it appears the best thing to do is just take myself out of the race for the day … or the week … or the month. But then, I hear Him; God gently whispers to my heart that there is hope. I hear the One in control of all things say, “Keep running! Don’t give up! There is a finish line!”

And just when I feel as if I can’t put another foot in front of the other, I hear Him remind me, “[You] can do all things through Christ who gives [you] strength” (Philippians 4:13).

His Word renews me. It’s like catching a glimpse of a water station directly ahead after running four miles in the heat.

Stop and drink in His Word:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phillippians 4:11-13)

When I’m ready to forfeit my day because the struggle is just too much, this verse helps me push through. It reminds me that whatever course I find myself on, as a child of the Most High King, I can endure it. I can fight through it. I can find the strength I need in Him.

Today, if you are struggling, find your renewed strength in Jesus. Just as in the midst of a race it’s OK to stop at a water station and drink to rehydrate before continuing on, so also life calls for times of refreshing. And as children of God, we can find this in simply knowing that Jesus is our strength, and He is always there when we call on Him.

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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What the Parable of the Prodigal Son Teaches Us About Spending Time With God

What the Parable of the Prodigal Son Teaches Us About Spending (2)

My oldest daughter, Beth, went to two church camps this summer. That’s two full weeks my baby of nine years was away from her mama. (And yes, I know, at nine, she’s no longer a baby, but to me, she will always be my baby girl.)

When she was gone, I missed her something terrible! Especially after she went off to the second camp, I immediately yearned to have her back. I guess the reason it was so hard the next week she was gone is because it was a camp I wasn’t as familiar with. She went to the second camp with a neighbor’s family and not with our church, so I knew she would be surrounded, mostly, by people she didn’t know. People I didn’t know.

She left on an adventure without me — emphasis on “without ME” — and I just wanted her back. When my independent (OK, I’ll say it) BIG girl left her mama a second time, she didn’t even glance back at me after I dropped her off with the neighbor and walked back toward our house. I know because I watched.

Throughout the week she was gone, this eagerness to have her back in my arms and under my care grew. When the day finally came she was to return home, my longing for my girl had grown into this insatiable hunger. I remember obsessing about how much I wanted to hug her and to love on her.

It’s often in times like these, where my emotions have been revved up so high it’s as if I’m about to ignite into flames, I suddenly hear God speak to me.

I heard Him say, “That’s how I often feel about you, my child.”

I have to tell you, I was a little shocked by this. Not because I don’t know how much God loves me, I most certainly do. He loved me so much He gave His one and only Son to die for me, for us (John 3:16). These words from my Savior gave me pause because it wasn’t as if I ever left Him for extended periods of time to go off on my own adventures, like my oldest had done.

Or maybe I had?

Is it not true that even though we aren’t ever physically from God’s view, spiritually we can be thousands of miles away from His loving gaze? As if we have turned our backs on Him to run off on our own in search of self-fulfillment?

Too busy for a quiet time? Too concerned with other priorities to go to church? Too preoccupied to pray with a friend or to witness to the lost?

Having my oldest away from me at camp for such a long time had just given me a glimpse into how our loving Father feels about us when we are spiritually far away from Him. He, too, becomes eager for our return, desirous of the time when He can yet again lavish His love and His peace upon us.

When Jesus told the story of the prodigal son, He created an illustration of God’s longing for His distant children and His great love for them. And upon a close inspection of this timeless tale, we can uncover just how we, when we don’t make time for God, have in common with this wayward child.

How We Are Like the Prodigal Son When We Neglect Time With God

The story opens in Luke 15, saying: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living” (v. 11).

In this parable, the father parallels God, and the son parallels a person in spiritual rebellion against Him. The first thing a reader should notice is that this son chooses to go off on an adventure far away from his father. This is a choice.

How often do we choose to do the same thing? How often do we start our days immediately going off on adventures of our own choosing without so much as a backward glance to our Father?

Then, notice what else it says in the opening verse to this story. It says that the son “squandered” his wealth. Now, remember where he got this wealth? The father. So technically, it wasn’t his wealth he wasted. It was the father’s.

Again, how often do we do this? How often do we wastefully cast aside what God desires to freely gives us in favor of squalor?

Notice where the son ends up as the story continues in verse 14: “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”

Now let’s pause a moment and examine our own lives. How many times have we ended up in this same position? Having lived day in and day out the way we see fit, only to be so spiritually hungry we try to fill that void with whatever will seemingly do the trick? Relationships? Work? Social media?

If you are anything like me, you don’t really like the honest answers you just gave to those questions. But, praise be to God, the story of this father and son doesn’t end with the child longing to obtain a feast from the pig trough. There is hope revealed in verse 17: “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.”

Do you need to do this today? Do you need to go to God and ask for forgiveness? Whether it be as a Christian to repent of a transgression or as a lost sinner in need of salvation, we can go to God the Father and ask for what we need.

And He is eagerly waiting for us to run into His open arms!

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’ So they began to celebrate.” (vv. 20-24)

The Heart of the Father Towards Us When We Stray

Whatever is going on in your life today, don’t neglect your heavenly Father. As is so beautifully illustrated in the story of the prodigal son, God wants you to want Him. He loves us, and He wants to show us His amazing love. If only we would let Him!

When Beth came home from her second church camp, I was overjoyed to hear her knock on the door to our home. I flung it open, embraced her, and twirled her around while squealing, “I’ve missed you!” We then spent most of that evening together, enjoying each other’s company.

Each day, the Savior waits, eager to embrace you and enjoy your company. Don’t opt instead to tackle the day on your own. He wants to clothe you in His best and celebrate life with you. Call on Him, today.

 

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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To the Overburdened Woman: A Lesson in God’s Expectations

To the Overburdened Woman Wondering What God Expects of You

I am a church member, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a teacher. I’m sure you fit many of those roles as well, and the expectations we put on ourselves and expect from others to fulfill any of those positions is mind-boggling. I’m sure you don’t want to read paragraphs of what I do related to each of those, but you can read an article about being spread thin that I wrote for Beulah Girl earlier if you want the juicy details.

For now, let’s just focus on the last few weeks of my life as a teacher. Early this year, I added another credential to my resume. Mind you, it doesn’t pay anything, I already have a million badges on my signature line of my email, and I am not changing jobs any time soon. I signed up for this certification because I wanted to. As my husband says, I crave chaos.

The certification requires monthly webinars that are supplemented by an overwhelming group chat and social media involvement. The culminating activity of this certification is the ability to earn a trip. I earned that trip to Denver (yay!), but I volunteered (how shocking!) to develop a breakout session in addition to preparing for the trip itself and bringing materials to present a required science-fair-type board. That’s a lot, so my summer has consisted of one week of preparation for that trip and one week of being on the trip itself. The trip was a wonderful experience, but I am exhausted!

Don’t we do that to ourselves as women? We are asked to bring a dish to a party, so we have to bring the best dish. We need an outfit to attend a women’s event, and we have to nail every accessory just to impress other women. It’s VBS time, and even though we don’t have time to think, we volunteer for the biggest, best-decorated room. It’s time for the chaos to stop! God doesn’t expect all the things we put on ourselves. Despite all our ever-running, in Micah 6:8, God tells the prophet that He only has three expectations for him. Maybe we women would do well to take note of these three commandments and center our lives on them instead.

God’s Three Expectations Women Can Learn From Micah

Do justly. As compassionate women, it is easy for us to cry. Or at least it is for me. I can cry over a commercial, a movie, a dream, or a memory. But I don’t often act on that compassionate cry. The key word in this segment of God’s admonition to Micah is the word do. My favorite book in the Bible, James, says that we must be “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves].”

It’s only justice when we do it, not just think about it or cry over it. What is God calling your woman’s heart to do? Fight against human trafficking? Fight for the unborn? Fight for your marriage and honor the vows that you know are the right way? Whatever it is, God’s call for justice is an opportunity to align ourselves with the beat of His heart. Let’s do it, whatever it is.

Love mercy. I am currently reading almost a 20-year-old book by Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?, where the author gives outrageous examples of God’s grace and juxtaposes them with calls for humanity to show that same grace in the face of horrible evil. I’ve made the point that God doesn’t expect very much of us, but what He does expect can be really hard.

Grace has often been defined as God giving us something we didn’t deserve. Mercy works in tandem with such extravagant love — it is when the consequences we do deserve are withheld from us. I can only skim the surface of how many times I’ve broken God’s heart or spit in His face by my actions and yet how many times He has withheld his wrath. Yes, I’ve had to deal with the fallout of my sin, but not to the degree I could have.

Our response to God’s many acts of mercy are at the crux of what God expects of women. We are to be the embodiment of mercy. When our children disrespect us, we could yell and reject them, especially if the disrespect becomes a pattern. Mercy says to love them anyway. When friends fail on their end of a bargain, we might feel the need to find new friends. Mercy says to live the golden rule and love the way we wish they could. Will we ever need to dole out punishment? Certainly we will, but greater mercy should be our life’s aim, since it is what will draw people to the cross.

Walk humbly with your God. Oh my, so many times in my life I’ve shown false humility on the outside — refusing to pose for pictures, singing quietly or not at all when asked, or playing down my academic achievements. All the while, on the inside, I was fighting thoughts of my own pride, pride in my appearance, my talents, or my intelligence. God knows the difference. I wrote a whole post for Beulah Girl about humility that I encourage you to read, but let me sum it up with this. God wants all the glory, and He won’t share it with us.

If we are doing tasks “for God” but secretly doing them so that we can get approval from our husbands, our churches, or the PTA board, they don’t count. If God expects only the three items He outlines through Micah, He expects us to do them well. Let us fall prostrate at the feet of our King and ask Him to take those aspects of our personality or behavior that rise up as competitive idols and help us restore them to their rightful places, at the foot of His cross and recognized as gifts from Him.

Listen, ladies, if you are struggling with the busyness of life and overwhelmed by your own expectations, it’s time to pick up God’s goals for you instead. And you know what? I’ve heard He has a pretty easy burden, one that’s worth the trade for our impossible one. If we will just fall in love with Jesus, we will naturally embrace justice, adore mercy, and humble ourselves. Because we always become like the ones with whom we spend our time.

Would you like prayer about God’s expectations of you? Do you feel overwhelmed? Feel free to leave a comment below, and this team will hold you up to the Lord.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Confronting Brokenness Rather Than Running From It (Blessings of Brokenness Book Study)

 THE BLESSINGS OF BROKENNESS (1)

“One of the things I have discovered through being broken … is that after brokenness we can experience God’s greatest blessings … But this blessing comes only if we experience brokenness fully and confront why it is that God has allowed us to be broken. If we allow God to do his complete work in us, blessing will follow brokenness” (The Blessings of Brokenness, 10).

A few years ago, I sat in a small prayer service at my church. While the people around me had upraised hands and cheerful expressions on their faces, I stewed on my pew.

I was angry at God. During the worship and prayer, two continual questions played like a tape recorder in my head, over and over: Why is this happening? Why are you letting me go through this, God? I had never been so confused or doubtful in my Christian walk. Whereas a few months before I had joyfully left my job to follow down a new path at His leading, I had no idea that it would lead to what felt like such chaos and suffering.

Our money had dried up. God hadn’t directed me in a way to replace the income we had lost when I had quit. All of the part-time work I looked into didn’t pay what I needed or would demand too much of my time.

My marriage was hanging by a thread. My husband and I were constantly fighting over finances and this “new direction” I felt I was to go.

My newborn son was difficult and colicky. He cried all the time and added to the tension of our already tension-filled household.

The area I had felt God ask me to step into wasn’t opening up like I wanted. I kept coming up against walls in relationships and opportunities. I made adjustments, worked on my skills, practiced in any spare second I could — but none of that made any difference.

I felt stuck. I knew this was where God wanted me. But why did He want me here? Although I would never admit it out loud to anyone, there was a voice inside that said, This isn’t working. You should give up. I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to follow God anymore if He continued to lead me down this path.

As I wrestled inside with these questions that I am sure everyone around me would find so shocking, there was also part of me that wasn’t completely void of hope. Part of me that knew that I didn’t have any other options. And because I didn’t know what else to do, I walked up at the end of the service to the altar call. There were hardly any people standing at the front of the church. I felt really foolish and silly standing there.

My bad mood hadn’t completely left. I really didn’t think anything would happen in that moment. But as I stood there, I heard the pastor say, “Don’t turn away. Don’t turn away.”

He was on the stage. He wasn’t talking directly to me, but I knew that God had put those words in his head for me. And, who knows?, maybe there was someone else sitting in the congregation — even in the midst of all those people with saintly expressions — who needed to hear that too.

Don’t. Turn. Away.

And that was it. That was enough. I felt the searing heat of God’s presence in my soul. I still didn’t understand what He wanted from me. I didn’t understand why He was letting me walk through such hardship, but I did understand this in that moment: He knew what I was going through, and He wanted me to stay with Him in the process. He wanted me to stick it out.

I didn’t get any other answers in the service that day. God didn’t reveal to me the reasons I was going through what I was — but I got the reassurance that God had me on a journey. And that there was a purpose for me in what felt like utter agony and disorder.

The reality is this. As Charles Stanley notes in The Blessings of Brokenness, “Brokenness is not something to be shunned and avoided at all cost. Rather it is something to be faced with faith” (12).

The Israelites had similar grumblings when God led them to the Red Sea. There had been rejoicing and celebration when they left Egypt. They most likely had dreamed of the new land they were going to, laughed when they considered the slavery they were leaving behind. But all of that was a distant memory when they came up against the mighty sea and heard Pharoah’s army behind them.

They were trapped. They had no way out. And they began murmuring and complaining to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11, NLT). Many of them thought about where they had just come from. Yes, they were slaves in Egypt, but at least they weren’t about to die there. And they wanted to go back. Suddenly this journey they had been so excited about didn’t seem so appealing any longer. Where was God?

And just when they thought they would surely come to an end and be killed by the Egyptians, Moses raised his staff and the waters parted. The people were in awe. Their finite minds had tried to think of all the ways God would deliver them, but all of the options that they were running through most likely were ones that got them out of their situation. They most likely did not include God creating a path through the very body of water that blocked their path.

Perhaps you find yourself in a situation that doesn’t make any sense. All you want is out. You may have made a job change or life change at God’s direction. The change may have been made with excitement and anticipation and then the bottom fell out. Perhaps you encountered relationship difficulties. Perhaps you left behind a supportive staff or department and your new work environment is full of prickly individuals. Perhaps you were once in a situation where you felt applauded and esteemed in your work, but no one is that impressed with your talents at the moment. Perhaps you have health concerns and don’t know what the doctor is going to say next.

And perhaps the questions in your head are the ones I had in the service or the one that the Israelites had when they faced the Red Sea. If so, this study is a great one for you to embark on because I believe God is saying the same thing to you that He said to me a few years ago: Don’t turn away.

That even though everything in you may want to run for the hills — there is a great blessing waiting for you if you persevere and choose not to turn away.

Even though it may not make any sense to us, God’s desire right now may not be for us to get out of our situation but to walk through it.

Questions to Consider: What situation does God possibly want you to confront rather than run away from? What might the blessing be if you stick out whatever hard thing God is asking you to walk through? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

Book Study: This post is part of a five week book study over Charles Stanley’s The Blessings of Brokenness: Why God Allows Us to Go Through Hard Times. We will have a live chat over chapters 1 & 2 Monday at 9 p.m. EST. To join us for next week, read chapters 3 & 4 by next Friday.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Dealing With the Challenges That Come With Change

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (9)

Not long ago, I started a new job. Well, in truth, it’s not new, really. I just transferred to a new location. Same job, different building. Same job, different colleagues. Same job, different challenges. So, the same but different.

Anyone else out there dealing with different right now?

Change can bring tremendous blessing, but it can also bring tremendous anxiety. I can testify to this, and I suspect others can give the same declaration with similar confidence. Change is a part of life, but it does, more often than not, come with a roller coaster of emotions.

Different can be scary. And when different begins to present challenges, you start to second guess your decision to embrace change in the first place. Even though it may have clearly been the right decision to embrace this difference, these doubts can be painful.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (10)

And so much comfort in life comes from the predictability of routine, the familiar people that surround us, and our everyday environment, so when one of those things (or all of them) changes, we can suddenly feel disabled. It’s as if we’re toddlers struggling to learn how to walk again. Tripping over our own feet. Stumbling over unfamiliar territory. Wondering if there is something, anything, nearby we can hold on to that would help guide our way.

Moving away from home? Changing jobs? Making a life-changing decision like staying home with the kids? Or homeschooling? Searching for a new church home?

What is your change — your different — that is seemingly pressing in on you?

During this challenging time in my life right now, this time of transition, my biggest struggle is with finding a new rhythm. I’m trying to relax and enjoy my new surroundings, but everything feels so awkward, so foreign. It’s distressing and wearisome.

Recently, I read a devotion in Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl, by Lysa Terkeurst, that took a closer look at Exodus 27:20, and it gave me hope. In this chapter of Exodus, God is instructing the Israelites on how to build the altar of burnt offering. The passage reads: “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.”

Terkeurst makes the following observation: “Isn’t it interesting that the olive branch is often seen as a symbol of peace? And yet in order to get what’s most valuable from the fruit of this tree, there is a lot of pounding, crushing and pressing that is required. Those words don’t usually go hand in hand with peace.”

There is a great truth in her words: A greater good is often found on the other side of pressing times in our lives. As Terkeurst points out later in her devotion, Jesus is an excellent example of this truth: “In order for Him to truly be ‘the light of the world,’ the prophecy of his beating, death and resurrection had to be fulfilled. His greatest hardship became our greatest hope.”

When we feel that God has asked us to make a change, and we are obedient to that prompting, it can be hard, trying. We may feel as if we are being pounded and crushed. However, after time passes, we are sure to reap a harvest of joy from our submission — whether it’s in this life or the next.

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Meditating on this truth found throughout the Bible helps me when situations threaten to overcome me.

The knowledge that these present trials can be used for future good helps me get out of bed every morning. Just taking time to remember that everything turns out all right in the end brings me great comfort.

He is in control. He is on His throne. He works all things for the good of those that love Him.

During your quiet time today, thank God for what He is doing in your life. Take time to let His peace, that surpasses all understanding, wash over you.

I have come to a place where I can thank God for my new job — and all its new challenges. After being reminded by God’s Word that the hottest fires bring forth desirable things in my life, I can approach Him now with thanksgiving in my heart. Because now I realize that difficult is only temporary, and God has so much He can do through it.

Will you join me in praising Him for your new change? Trust me. It helps.

 

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

Recently, I read an article written by a mother coping with the grief of her teenage son’s death. The article was a poignant account of how she was having difficulty going in her son’s room now that he was gone and the last moments of his life as a heroin-addicted drug user.

The article included a picture of her handsome son in his hockey uniform. Nothing about his demeanor or face suggested he was anything but a happy, healthy adolescent — yet, the last moments of his life were spent vomiting while his mother screamed helplessly as EMT’s worked to stabilize him. The mother’s words literally bled from the page as she shared her honest struggle navigating life without her boy.

The mother’s words stayed with me in a haunting way after I put her article down. After reading her account, I couldn’t help but think of my own children, and I felt a sense of fear myself. I began to think about how fragile life is. I began to irrationally worry for them. They were heading out for an outing at the swimming pool with my husband, and I could feel a frenzy of anxious thoughts stir. I was worried for their safety in the water that day. For their safety in the van while they were en route to the pool. For their safety every day.

Just as my emotions threatened to reach a fever-pitch, I realized I needed to cleanse these anxious thoughts from my mind. I got alone with God, and I whispered these words: “I am afraid. Help me. I am afraid.”

I told Him what I was tied up in knots about. I prayed for my children and asked Him to help me re-focus my thoughts. I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me. Later in the day, I opened up a devotional and read these words by author and in(courage) contributor Lisa-Jo Baker: “The older I get the more I battle fear. And I know it’s because the older I get the more scary things I see in the world.”

I exhaled a little more and let the truth of her statement wash over me.

We live in a world where things go terribly wrong. People get hurt. Parents lose children. Relationships get broken. Being a mother, I feel a tremendous sense of love for my children. And with that love comes fear — because I know I can’t protect them from everything.

Scriptural Advice for Combatting Fear

In 2 Timothy 1:7, we see a young minister of the Gospel struggling with timidity not in his role as a parent, but in his role as a minister. Paul exhorts him with these words: “We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV).

Though these words were given by Paul to strengthen and encourage Timothy in his ministry, as commentator Charles Ellicott states, these words can be taken in a more general sense, as applicable to all Christians.

The verse assures us that we as Christians have been given the exact opposite of fear: “power … love and … a sound mind.” That is — we don’t have to accept fear when it comes because it is not from God, and we have the means with which to resist it and send it packing.

You may be reading this, thinking, “But you don’t understand how strong this fear is. I am literally paralyzed by it. I want it to go, but I am totally overwhelmed by it.”

I understand because I have been in similar positions, as in the scenario I described with the frightening article, and I continue to have bouts of fear. Quite frustratingly, I have dealt with more fear as I’ve pressed into God these past few years — not because God has sent it to me, but because as I’ve become a more potent weapon for his kingdom, the attack against me has become very strong and very real.

There are days when the fear has been so thick that it is palpable, and I feel immobilized.

But Paul assures Timothy and Christians that we don’t have to remain in that place of feeling overcome. The “power” mentioned in the verse that we have at our disposal is the power that rests in us because of the Holy Spirit. This power we are given helps us discern and identify when wrong thoughts or ideas come against us — whether this be through Satan trying to plant these thoughts directly or through Satan working through the actions or words of people.

The “love and sound mind” part of the verse suggests that this counsel we have is such that we can reprove others in love when they offer ideas that counter God’s Word and walk in peace and stability of thinking, not only for our own sake, but the sake of others.

On a practical level, then, here are two ways we can tap into the Holy Spirit’s power and take a stand against fear:

1) Pray.

We make ourselves easy prey when we don’t make time daily to pray and spend time in God’s presence. God assures us that His peace guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Sometimes, right in the moment when I pray I feel instantly at peace and my fear dissipates (as in this instance). Other times, when the fear is so strong, I will get a verse later through a friend or family member, a line in a sermon, or by some other means.

That verse will be one that I can cling to that acts as a stabilizing force for my mind. As believers, we should expect that God will come to our aid, and we can call out for this rescue during prayer (Psalm 31:2). In my most recent situation fretting over my children, before I prayed about it, I had this thought: “Praying isn’t going to do anything.” And that was a lie straight from the enemy!

I pressed through and prayed anyway and felt better. And it was just a little later in the day that I came across Baker’s devotional which further encouraged me and helped me get over the anxious thoughts I was having.

2). Take every thought captive.

The power of the Holy Spirit Paul speaks of helps us to take every thought captive that is not of God. We can know when a thought or idea is going to derail us; instead of accepting that idea, we can keep our mind clear and at rest by resisting wrong thoughts.

As 2 Corinthians 10:5 states: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I love how author and Proverbs 31 contributor Renee Swope describes this process of filtering thoughts in a recent devotional. Her son Andrew was apparently struggling with anxious thoughts about school. To help him, she explained 2 Corinthians 10:5 and advised him to “catch” each anxious thought he was having like a baseball and toss it back into “outfield.”

She concludes her devotion by emphasizing that there is nothing “more powerful than our hearts hearing our lips proclaim our trust in God’s truth” — truth that not only children but adults can find assurance in.

What do you believe about fear?

Both prayer and right thinking help us to meditate on God instead of the scary person or circumstance — but it also boils down to belief. We have to believe that God doesn’t want us to fear and trust that He will help us.

Unfortunately, some of us embrace fear and hold onto those worrisome thoughts that come our way because we don’t believe that there is the power available to us to overcome it. We accept it thinking there is no other choice, but Scripture indicates that God has a better way for us.

In addition, many of us beat ourselves up for having the fear at all. Rather than do any of those things, we must realize that God does not intend for us to cower down to fear or feel down that we are feeling so timid. Instead, He wants us to look to Him and know in the depths of our being that He is bigger than anything we face.

As Swope advocates in a different piece, “Fear goes away when we actively trust God more than what we fear.”

Join us for a live Blab chat Monday, April 11 @9 or watch the replay.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Overcoming Anxiety With One Simple Question

overcoming anxiety

At the beginning of the summer, we put our house on the market.

To get the house ready, we painted, scraped, re-grouted, and deep-cleaned. I was a little tense and snappy with my family during those weeks as I struggled to work on the house and care for my small children at the same time. I felt a little stressed at a few intervals; however, we finished the work to the best of our ability and got the house listed.

After that, I felt some of that tension go away. Of course, the pressure didn’t completely subside. My perfectionistic tendencies were tough to keep at bay as I worked to keep the house looking picture-perfect for the stream of would-be buyers coming through.

About two months into our house listing, we got the promise of an offer. Not only did we get news of one offer coming in, we found out shortly after that that we had a second more generous offer coming in. We were ecstatic. However, our feelings of elation soon tanked after the potential buyers retracted their offer after the inspection and our other interested buyer decided that he no longer wanted the house.

In the week following the broken contract, I started having difficulty sleeping at night. My heart was racing uncontrollably during the day, and I was struggling to control my runaway thoughts. Recognizing the symptoms that had plagued me at other key points of my life, I knew I was suffering from an anxiety attack.

I tried prayer. Quiet time meditating on Scripture. Calming thoughts. But the anxiety just seemed to worsen.

A History of Anxiety

Because I’ve experienced anxiety at other intervals of my life, I know anxiety tends to hit when I am faced with one of the following scenarios: I’m in a season of new when I am faced with a lot of change; I am given a task that I don’t feel adequate to meet; or I sense that someone else doesn’t like me and I perceive (rightly or wrongly) purposeful rejection.

What I learned a long time ago about my anxiety is that it is caused by fear. I generally get anxious when I feel ill-prepared, inadequate or unworthy. These feelings tap into my biggest fears as a person. Therefore, getting a handle on my anxiety in the past has meant being able to identify the underlying fear I am experiencing and asking Jesus to help me with that fear.

For instance, the first anxiety episode I can recall occurred in my college days. My anxiety affected not only my emotional well-being but my physical well-being. I was rail thin. I had digestive problems that had never been diagnosed, but I believe would have been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. I felt jumpy and nervous all the time — and, if you have ever had IBS, you know that it makes your stomach emit weird grumbling sounds at extremely inopportune times. I found this problem could be helped with exercise, but it still made it very awkward for me to sit in quiet lecture halls and classrooms.

In one pivotal spiritual moment one day at church, God told me why I was having the problems with anxiety that I was: I had a fear of failure. When I got this revelation, I knew at the core of me that I was really afraid that I wouldn’t pass my college courses. I didn’t think I was smart enough. I had a high grade point average, but that wasn’t enough to convince me that I wasn’t going to miserably fail at some point.

And I realized something else: I could trust Jesus with my college courses. I could stop worrying about failure and just do my best. And for whatever reason just knowing what fear I was dealing with and the cause of my anxiety in that scenario helped it go away. Once I addressed the anxiety, the digestive problems went away as well.

Anxiety cropped up in small ways again when I moved on into a career in teaching, but I could usually identify the fear behind my emotions and get calm again. And when I later left teaching and had a major episode of anxiety that included a panic attack on a stage — the answer explaining that became fairly clear right after the fact.

However, this particular time, in the case of my house sale, I didn’t know why I was anxious. I didn’t know why I couldn’t sleep and why it felt like I was running a marathon each day even though I wasn’t even jogging.

The Solution to My Problem

And, just like I have so many times before, because I didn’t know how to make the anxiety stop in this case, I took my question to Jesus, and I asked Him: “God, what am I afraid of?” (Oh, and by the way, Lord, can you make my anxiety stop?)

I didn’t get an answer after that prayer session or even the day after. In fact, a few days went by and then I did receive an answer in a way that I wasn’t really expecting.

My mom had been in frequent communication with me about the house since we had put it on the market. When we lost our buyers, and I told her I was having a tough time, she sent me a text a few days later with a Bible verse she had received from the Lord for me:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Habbakuk 2:3 –KJV)

After she sent me the verse, I had to meditate on those words. I even went so far as to read some commentary on the verse to help me shed light on its meaning for my circumstance. And it wasn’t until a few days later that what had been an extremely fuzzy situation began to clarify, and I realized something: I did have an underlying fear, and here’s what it was: I was afraid that what God had told me about moving wasn’t going to come true.

And if it didn’t come true, that was very bad for me because I had announced to everyone that this move was God-orchestrated. I had written an entire blog post about how God had directed this move as a deliverance for me out of my situation.

You see, if you look at the Habbakuk verse in context, the verse is written by the prophet Habbakuk for the nation of Israel to trust that God would bring down the powerful Chaldeans and not allow them to destroy Israel. He instructed them not to give up just because it hadn’t happened yet and to wait for God’s appointed time (Matthew Henry Commentary). And not only that, the words indicate a waiting not only for deliverance but God’s counsel, God’s direction.

I was feeling a little like the nation of Israel. I had been given a word of what was to come, but the circumstances with my house not selling speedily were making me doubt that it was going to happen.

Over and over, the phrase from the Habakkuk verse “though it tarry, wait for it” just became one that I began repeating over and over because the truth was, I hadn’t heard a single thing from God since the botched offers. I was worrying that maybe I had missed something. Maybe there was something I hadn’t done right. Worry just consumed me.

This simple phrase from Scripture helped me to stop and reassure myself that God had told us to move. He would have to worry about our house selling and every other detail. And for that moment — I wasn’t to worry or to fear — only wait.

Getting Rid of Anxiety With One Question

Everyone is different. Not everyone suffers anxiety for the same reasons as me. I get that. It may seem a little silly to have a “formula” of sorts for beating anxiety. But I believe that anxiety will be a problem for certain people like me again and again. We may get through one bout but another will come. And, although every time is unique, this situation with my house reminded me of what I had done at other key points when I was experiencing anxiety — the solution I had turned to again this time.

The moment I feel anxiety coming on, I need to do the following: Ask one question of one Person.

The question I need to ask is “What am I afraid of?” and the Person I need to ask it of is Jesus. You see, I couldn’t detect the reason for my anxiety in this most current instance just by asking the question alone. I am not saying that we can’t ever identify our fears or seek help from another wise person or counselor, but for me, I needed to just ask the question of the One who already knew.

I didn’t know initially because I didn’t ask God right away. I was asking the question, but I didn’t ask Him the question until a few days went by. I tried to figure it out by myself.

One passage of Scripture that has taken on new meaning for me this year is the Samaritan woman at the well passage. She said of her encounter with Jesus: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (John 4:29).

I believe that not only did Jesus look into her soul and know her deeds without anyone telling him, I believe that He told her the why. That is why she got so excited. He gave Himself as her solution to her deepest soul problems.

The same is true for me and you. Christianity isn’t a dead, has-been religion with a god made by human hands. The Jesus of the Bible is as real and true today as He was for the Samaritan woman at the well. He is the only One who can look into me and see why I do the things I do.

Beulah girl dec jan (1)

And that why may be the key to overcoming problems in my life I don’t know how to deal with on my own.

Yes, even those making sleep leave my eyes and a tremble invade my heart.

Do you struggle with anxiety? What are some ways that you have been able to cope with fear in your life? Share in the comments below.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How to Worship in the Waiting

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I remember going on trips with my family as a little girl. I was always in the middle seat in the back, with one brother asleep on my lap and one on my shoulder. Even today, it’s hard for me to fall asleep when someone else is driving, in case my lack of vigilance is the cause of our plunging down a ravine. (Or maybe I’m just a control freak?)

Anyway, when you can’t sleep and have two people lying on you, all there is to do, besides play the alphabet billboard game with yourself, is wonder that quintessential childhood question: “Are we there yet?” Such a question drives every parent to drink (sweet tea) as the answer is clearly that if we were there, we would have already stopped. Obvious enough?

Not to a child, apparently.

Not to us adults either. God makes us so many promises, and He is always so faithful, but all we seem to want is the fulfillment of the next promise — and now. We ask our Heavenly Father the same question I used to ask my earthly one so many times: “Are we there yet?” And with that question, we show that doubt has taken root in our hearts.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on our finances. Our bills are paid, but that beautiful budget that my husband and I never seem to actually implement stares us in the face.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on this fix-Suzy’s-personality-thing. I remind Him that I called a whole blog “The Beam in My Eye” and have drawn attention to every flaw I can think of about myself, but yet, my issues are still there.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on Dusty’s and my future. Kids or no kids? Leadership or no leadership? World change or television-channel-change? Is this it for us?

In all of my searching and asking and nagging and are-we-there-yetting, I forget that God is the King of all this “stuff,” and He wants my worship even if my proverbial car in the game of life stops right where it is and I never get the answer to anything I’ve asked.

Because I don’t deserve these answers. What I deserved, Jesus took on the cross, and thank God for that. However, I know that because God is gracious, all the important wonders of my life are going to be resolved by a loving Father. I just have to embrace His time and remember to worship in the waiting.

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I feel like God has made some huge promises to me in my lifetime, and He will fulfill everything He’s said. However, in the day-to-day, I often struggle to actively believe the promises, thinking instead that maybe I conjured them up or misunderstood God. Even so, I am comforted that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. Two Bible men, David and Elijah, had incredible lives and ministries; however, they both also went so far as to shrink from God’s promises by hiding in caves.

In 1 Samuel 22, David has already been anointed king, as I shared in another post on this blog. However, he finds himself in the Cave of Adullum, a fortified cavern usually populated by a different clientele — criminals. God proved His love to David when He allowed the young shepherd boy to kill a lion, a bear, and an inhuman giant. He proved it again when He had Samuel choose David from out of a stock of what the world would consider superior brothers.

Most recently, he had proven it when he allowed David to form a covenant with his enemy king’s son. Didn’t David believe that God would provide victory for him over that same king, Saul, whom God had rejected? Why, then, was he hiding in a cave? Because he found that to trust while he waited on a promise he considered unlikely just was too risky. David was so very human that he doubted the fulfillment of God’s promise.

And what of Elijah’s doubt in the downtime? He is truly one of the biblical greats, a prophet whose amazing life is recorded in 2 Kings. A man who would later perform more than double Elijah’s miracles, young Elisha thought so much of his hero that he followed him around even to his catching away by the Lord in a chariot of fire.

Elijah was known for stopping the rain, raising the dead, multiplying food in a famine, and even calling fire from Heaven, just to name a few. Did you catch those? Despite all these displays of God’s power, though, Elijah succumbed to depression and found his own cave. Wanting to rest from his seemingly solo task of taking on evil personified in King Ahab, Elijah came to a point where he was ready to give up and even die.

But God appeared to Elijah in that cave in 1 Kings 19:12: “And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (KJV).

At that moment, He showed up to prove a point to Elijah that He also proves to us today. God is very faithful and very present. He has not said one thing He will not do. When He said David would be king, king he was, and no Saul could stop him. No adultery could stop him. Not even the death and rebellion of his children could deter him.

Psalm 119:89 assures us that God’s word, whatever it is, is “forever … settled in heaven” (KJV). Doubting God’s promises may not falsify them, but doubting will certainly delay the sure word’s fulfillment and discourage us too. Had King David known what an example he would be of knowing the Father’s heart to us living in the new covenant, he would have come out of the cave of hiding to wait confidently on the Lord’s provision for his kingdom.

And had Elijah only realized that God’s promise for him was more than death by the way of other prophets, maybe he could have seen that chariot of fire in his mind before it came in reality to translate him straight from this world to the next.

I have many unfulfilled promises in my life, but I don’t want to just hide in a cave and wait for them to come to pass. I want to believe God in the waiting stage. I want those who see the fulfillment of the promises to know that they were birthed out of seasons of trust and hope from a woman of faith who chose to embrace God in her weakness and seek Him until her strength came.

And as I ask God many more times in my life, “Are we there yet?” I want to trust that for each and every promise, we will reach there just in time.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Why Ignoring God’s Word Is Not Smart

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What comes to mind when you hear the word “summer”? Do words like “sun” and “sand” and “water” pop into your head? Do you envision lazy days spent outside eating ice cream after grilling lunch or dinner on the back porch? Perhaps you think more broadly and the ideas of family and fun spring to mind?

Well, please allow me to briefly share what comes to mind when I think of summer. (Disclaimer: I’m a high school English teacher.)

The word “time” springs to mind when summer is mentioned. Time to finally do all those things I’ve been pushing aside during the busy school year. Time to clean and organize my house. Time to help my children sharpen their reading and writing skills. Time for doctors’ appointments, and time for the car’s oil change and finishing that Christmas project I started back in December.

Time to put my life back in order before the next school year begins.

And that is what I have focused on since summer began. That to-do list.

All that being said, I have also managed to carve out time for VBS and a trip to see my family, along with squeezing in a couple visits to the pool with the kids. Really, when all is said and done, I’ve been mighty productive. So why do I feel so unaccomplished? So unfinished and incomplete?

Recently, I asked my Jesus those questions, and I instantly received the answer.

I am feeling so broken lately because I have been making time for every other priority in my life EXCEPT for God’s Word.

The moment the Holy Spirit showed me my error, the words of Psalm 51 sprang into my heart: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Those words were written by King David after the prophet Nathan confronted the king about his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. David was instantly repentant after hearing Nathan’s condemnation in 2 Samuel 12:9: “Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.”

David had ignored God’s Word when he took Bathsheba (you shall not commit adultery, the seventh commandment) and killed her husband, Uriah (you shall not murder, the sixth commandment). I imagine David, like me, had not been spending time in God’s Word to have made such grievous errors in judgment.

Ignoring God’s Word can have severe consequences.

We see this truth when the Lord says this to David through Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 12:10: “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

When we don’t make spending time in God’s Word a priority, disaster can and will, eventually, strike. A child of God found not spending time in His Word can be likened to a person driving a car in the pouring rain without the windshield wipers on. If you keep driving like that, you will crash! And David crashed hard.

As for me, I, too, have been ignoring God’s word. Like King David, this summer I have been living life according to my own whims and desires without taking any time to consult God’s Word — to consult God. By ignoring His Word, I have been leaving out a primary way God can speak to me and teach me.

Additionally, not spending time in His Word can lead to spiritual malnourishment. And that’s how I’ve been feeling this summer — starved. The reason I am feeling so fragmented lately is because I have deliberately cut off my spiritual sustenance and have been starving myself. No wonder I have grown weary and feel faint of heart.

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Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

How could I make all this time for temporal things and totally ignore what is lasting and true?

Am I alone in this? Do you also need to make time for the One who created time? Let’s make some mid-year resolutions and resolve to ignore God’s Word no longer.

Here are two things we can do to foster a growing relationship with the Lord:

1. Start your day in His Word. Even if you only have five minutes to spare, stop and acknowledge the Lord by reading His Word. The world in which we live is dark and scary. It’s a battlefield for the child of God! Philippians 4:7 admonishes us to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and it just makes sense that it is best to do this BEFORE the day begins and not after the battle has already begun.

2. Study His Word. It is also important to become intimately acquainted with God’s Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 explains that you should “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” We need to make time to really study His truth. Happily, one of the results of having a time like this is establishing a deeper relationship with the giver of life Himself.

Making these resolutions is simple, but putting them into practice can be daunting. I get it! If you are a busy working mom like myself, making the above two suggestions top priority in your life is a huge undertaking. But we must try!

The consequences of failure in this area of our walk with God could create irreversible damage. Just recall the loss of David’s first infant son with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12) and the adversity he faced in the later years of his life with his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15).

So, if you are feeling as if something is amiss in your life, perhaps you are missing out on time in God’s Word. Resolve with me to ignore it no longer. I plan on ending my summer and starting the new school year moving in the right direction — closer to God’s Word and thus closer to God.

Just a closer walk with Thee; Grant it, Jesus, is my plea; Daily walking close to Thee; Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Will you resolve with me to spend more time in God’s Word? Post a comment about your plans, and let’s create a dialogue and solidify our intentions before the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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What Does God Expect of Me?

What Does God Expect of Me

Earlier this week, a big Amazon package was sitting on my kitchen table when I got home. I knew exactly what it was. It was a brand new food processor I had just ordered a few days before. My plan was to start making all my own baby food, since my son was almost eight months old, and I was behind in giving him “other foods” (aka anything other than formula).

I decided that making homemade baby food would be a good idea in order to save money, and that I would be an accomplished, above-average mom. As I went to a kitchen drawer for scissors to open the package, I felt like I was supposed to be excited about it, but I wasn’t. I knew I wouldn’t be able to successfully do this. I knew I didn’t have all the time, energy, and drive in me in order to make this homemade baby food thing happen. I was defeated before I had even begun. I felt like a failure.

As I sat down for my quiet time this morning, my heart was heavy. My many perceived failures were piling up on me. I had a picture in my mind of the kind of woman, wife, and mom I was supposed to be.

I was supposed to have a perfectly clean house, a schedule of all of our meals for the next month, and all of our doctors’ appointments lined up for the year. I was supposed to be teacher-of-the-year at my school, go to the gym three times a week, and be up-to-date on all the latest fashions. I was supposed to volunteer in the community, serve in many facets at my church, and even be a leader of a handful of ministries. I was supposed to be an incredibly responsible, respectable, and put-together adult. I was supposed to have an organized purse and be able to create made-from-scratch baby foods.

The list was long and my strength was weak. Why couldn’t I be and do all of those things? Why didn’t God put the ability to accomplish these tasks more readily inside of me? I mean, a woman able to do it all is what would please Him and mean success, right?

With all of my weaknesses glaring, I cried out to God and realized something. I have been pressuring myself to be someone that I may NEVER be. And that is OK. Even better than that, it’s very possible that I have been wasting time and energy trying to be someone that I was NEVER SUPPOSED to be.

You see, as I got caught up in such a long list of to do’s, it was almost as if I was focused on being more like Martha instead of more like Mary. Let’s take a look at the passage to remind ourselves of these two sisters.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’ ” (Luke 10:38-42 –ESV)

Martha was focused on many things. She was distracted by them and trying to do, do, do for Jesus. Maybe, in a way, she was trying to be good enough for him. This is the trap that I have found myself in. I long to be a daughter that God is pleased with, and while that is a great thing, I had created all these things in my mind that He must expect from me. Things I thought I must do in order to be worthy of his presence. Like Martha, I was focusing on my to-do list rather than simply enjoying the company of the One in my heart.

Like Martha

There are a couple problems with this works-based mentality. The first is that my works will never make me good enough for him. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The second problem with me trying to do more for Jesus is that it takes me away from the real truth and beauty of Christianity — to be in a close and personal relationship with God because of what Christ did for me, not what I do for Him. To simply be in awe of who He is and to rest in and enjoy His presence, hear His teaching, and get to know Him more. And the funny thing is, time spent with Him is where I get the strength to do the things that He has called me to.

The world teaches us to accomplish as much as we possibly can and to earn our worth and acceptance. To be more like Martha. To work hard, and then we might be “good enough.” But that’s not what Jesus tells us to do. Jesus says for us to pause from our busyness and learn from Him. To believe that “in repentance and rest is our salvation” (Isaiah 30:15).

Yes, God has planned things for me to do, and I certainly want to do them. I want to glorify Him with my life, and I don’t want to miss what He has for me. But my hope is that I don’t get caught up in works. That I would not “be anxious and troubled about many things.” That I would be more like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Because resting in His presence will then allow me to clearly see the difference between the works He has called me to and the ones He hasn’t.

What about you? Have you become so caught up in trying to please others or meet your own impossible expectations that you haven’t been able to listen to Jesus lately? What is one way you can make time for Him today?

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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