Tag Archives: Struggle

Seeking God

mountains

“Seek the Lord while you can find him.

Call on him now while he is near.”

-Isaiah 55

This morning, just after sunrise, I went for a long walk in the woods. If you are ever in a place like this you have to walk out into the woods and be still, listen, pray and praise.  That was my goal this morning…and I hoped to see a bear…but back to my topic.  I walked about a mile back into the forest and just stood still…waiting…waiting for God.  I prayed, I sang (badly), I quieted my mind and listened….
….I listened for God, but at times he feels as elusive as that bear I never saw today.  At times I wait, I listen and I hear nothing…..I want to hear from him, I want to follow him, I want to be aware of his presence, but often…..silence.
I know many struggle when this happens.  I have.  Is this a game of “hide-and-seek”?  Why is this so hard?  But there is much more going on than you know when you sense God is not there.  He’s teaching us to be still.  God said to David, “Be still (shut up) and know that I am God.”  God is there and he is not silent, but often I’m deaf to his voice.  How do I fix that?  What do I do?
I have to be still….be quiet, quiet my mind, my heart, my voice and wait on him.  This morning I stood in the deep forest for more than 30 minutes.  I know, that’s not very long, but as I stood there praying, listening, silent before God, I waited for his voice.  He knows I want to follow, he knows I desire his will, he knows me better than I know me….and yet he makes me wait.  He says nothing.
What is going on?  What’s wrong?  Nothing at all….God is working on things I’m completely unaware of.  He’s dealing with things in my life I have never dealt with.  For me the first task is stillness….God has the response…I will know that HE is God.
I’m seeking God.  He’s not like that old bear who avoided me this morning…he’s always with me, working in my life…even when I don’t see him, even when I don’t hear him.  In these times I wait.  He always works in my life in ways that surprise me.  I look forward to his surprise today.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Relationships

As I work my way through life, through marriage, through parenting, and through God’s word I am keenly aware of one thing….

ALL of life is about relationship.

Relationship with God.

Relationship with my wife.

Relationship with kids, and grandkids.

Relationship with PEOPLE! People are everywhere and if I’m going to survive well I have to deal with them, get along with them and care about them,

But there is a problem. You know the problem well, don’t you? People are selfish, mean, frustrating, prideful, hard to get along with and just messy! People make life hard!!! Isn’t that funny? People around us are our main source of joy, frustration and struggle. And it’s just plain messy!

Today I’m working on a passage of scripture I will be teaching this week and it’s all about relationships….how to get along with PEOPLE. You would think we would have this figured out by now, but we don’t tolerate each other very well. We can’t seem to get along with others well at all. The ongoing wars on our little planet tell the tale of our inability to exist together. We seem better able to kill than to care.

Anyway, the passage I’m working through is all about relationships and the key word for these relationship to work is the word “submit.” It’s this idea: “put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.” Now you see why we don’t do this well, don’t you? We are in a ME world with instructions from God’s word to make this an OTHERS world. It’s something that we can only do as we imitate the only one who ever did it perfectly- Jesus.

Submit to one another, in other words put others ahead of you…put them first…care about them more than you do about you. That’s the solution to our world’s problems, but it can only happen as I allow God to live it out in me. He did it perfectly and he can do it now through me….if I will let him. It would be really easy if it weren’t for all the people I have to deal with…..

Previously posted 5/10/11. Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Dealing With Me

My biggest problem is not my work, other people around me or even the struggles I face. My biggest problem is ME! I live in a world of people all struggling, for the most part, with themselves. It’s all these struggling people clashing together that creates the problems we see around us.

Unless I can deal with the me I see in the mirror I can never work though my issues with you. Paul the apostle knew this struggle himself, we all understand the struggle, but he actually articulated his own battle. Here are a few of his thoughts,

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”

My biggest problem is ME! I hate that. I want to please God, I want to be who he designed me to be. I want to live as he designed me, but something keeps pulling me down to the base person I was when I first met him. That “me” that causes all my problems, all my anger, my sinful thoughts, my frustrations, irritations, my resentments. All the things that come from that “me”…..is not the me God wants me to be. He has created in me a new man, and yet I so easily fall back to that old man. It’s so frustrating. I hate it! I so understand Paul’s words and struggles. So do you, don’t you? We all live with this tug of sin pulling at our hearts, minds and affections, but it’s not the end of the story. There is a solution that Paul mentions at the end of his thoughts in this passage. Here’s his conclusion,

“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

The truth is that my sinful nature will never improve. I have to deal with that and “walk in the Spirit,” the new man God created when I trusted him. My old man, the old me, always wants its way…that won’t change…it’s my reality. It’s yours too. My challenge is to choose to walk in his Spirit and not as the “me” who wants his way. Today I’m struggling with me. Frustrated by the man in my mirror, but I know God has provided a better way.

My next step today is to walk in that new way and thank God for his forgiveness and grace.

This struggle will be ours until we finish this life. It’s part of the curse, but the hope we have is the Spirit of God in us that gives us the opportunity to live in a new “me” that pleases God. I remember the story of a young man asking his grandfather when the passions of life ebb. The old saint paused for a moment and then, with 85 years of wisdom, responded, “I don’t know, but if they ever do I’ll let you know.”

Dealing with “me” is my struggle for the day. Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

The Pursuit Of Contentment

We have had an unusual number of days this year over 100 degrees. It’s been hot! I’m amazed at how hard it is for me to be content with my circumstances, with the heat. If it’s too hot, I wish it were cooler. If it’s too cold, I wish it were warmer. If it’s raining, I wish it weren’t. If we go through a drought (as we have), we all pray for rain. We seem to enjoy being discontent. We just recently got back from a mission trip to Russia, and when asked how the trip went my first response is, “it was really hot.” Why is my focus on my comfort, my contentment? Why do we all verbalize our discontent and everyone understands what we feel?Why is it so hard for us to be content? I hear it from everyone I spend any length of time with, “If I only had ____________.” Now, they may have a nice home, food, great kids, cars, enough to get by, but there is always that “one more thing” that will make them content.

We all struggle with it, and it has been a problem since the garden of Eden. In every country I have traveled the struggle for contentment is alive and well.

This morning I was reading Psalm 78 as the author recites the history of Israel and their sins. It’s interesting how he views it as he writes,

Psa 78:16 He brought forth streams also from the rock And caused waters to run down like rivers.
Psa 78:17 Yet they still continued to sin against Him, To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
Psa 78:18 And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire.
Psa 78:19 Then they spoke against God; They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 

They saw God provide rivers of water as they had asked, but is that enough? No, of course not! Can God give us bread too? And in the middle of this the author calls that discontent sin, putting God to the test.

It seems we are always trying to fill a part of us with something instead of someone. “Stuff” will never bring contentment. Our culture will make sure of that, because as soon a I get the latest and greatest of whatever toy I want then, suddenly, there is an ever better, faster more wonderful one available and I’m unhappy again.

Contentment comes from someone, not something. I see in scripture the clear teaching that contentment is a result of an intimate relationship with God. The “stuff” is another topic altogether. In fact Jesus invites us in the gospels to live our lives with open hands and freely give our “stuff” away. That’s hard to do if we consider it the source of our contentment, the reason we are happy.

I love the story that Phillip Yancey tells of a friend who went on a monastic retreat. As the little monk was taking the visitor to his room he said, “Now, if there’s anything you need let us know and we will teach you how to live without it.”

Although I have no intention of living a monastic lifestyle it’s very appealing to me because I wouldn’t have all this “stuff” to worry about and drag around.

Paul discovered the secret and talks about it in Philippians. Here is what he said,

Phi 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
Phi 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Phi 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

Lord, teach me to be content. Help me to find my contentment in you, and not in the “stuff.”

Henry Brandt says it best when he said, “My goal in life is not to get to the end of it and compare my pile of ashes to your pile of ashes.”

The stuff will be thrown out, sold, given away, but an intimate relationship with the living God is priceless.

I’ll gladly give all my “stuff” to get that!

But somewhere inside of me I hope I don’t have to. We are sad creatures, aren’t we?

Visit Mike at Finishing Well.

Permission to Speak Freely

 

The permission to speak freely by Anne Jackson is an awesome book that talks about how we let our fears stop us from speaking freely about anything.  Freely speaking on our thoughts and fears about church, relationships, addictions, depression, family etc.  Her single statement “Fear Won” caught my heart.  Fear wins out so often over so many things in so many of our lives.  This book reminds us that we may never be completely free of fear, but that we can live a courageous life, speaking freely about the issues we have faced or are facing.

 

Many people struggle with depression and seasons of depression, wondering why they still fight it or are fearful of what others will think about them taking antidepressants etc.  She sums it up nicely when talking about seasons of depression saying  “feelings of insecurity and worthlessness is a chain I may never be able to break.”

 

She generously gives the gift of courage by stepping out and speaking out about her addictions, abuse and fear of talking freely about them.   She says “something in us begins to come alive in us when we see people overcome fear.” We draw courage from others who, regardless of fear, stand up and speak up.

 

Sometimes our fears of living our dreams keep up from even taking the first step.  Anne puts it this way “Their hearts are fighting for their dreams, yet fear claws away at their spirits, telling them their dreams are impossible.”   Sometimes it doesn’t take much more than a single twinge of fear to hold us back.

 

This book is very uplifting and encouraging.  Whether you are fighting seasons of depression, feelings of worthlessness, or anything else that grips your heart in fear, Permission to Speak Freely is sure to encourage you and maybe you’ll find the gift of going 2nd is something you can give to others by sharing your story.

One of my favorite quotes by Anne:

I had now seen the redemption and freedom that occurs when the darkness is forced into the light, disguised as awkwardly spoken words

 

The audio book is read by Anne Jackson, the author.  I feel that we could actually feel more of what she was feeling as she recounts some of what was going through her mind and heart while she was retelling her story.  Very well done.

 

I’d like to thank Christian Audio for the complimentary copy of this book through their Reviewers’ program.  Follow Christian Audio on Twitter here. Check their site each month for a free audio book download.  Good stuff there!

{{HUGS}} yall

@spreadingJOY