On Focus, and Ignorance, During Hard Times

I decided to take a break from the Traits of a Godly Person series for this week. There are so many things going on in our world, and I often wonder should I talk about some of the more difficult issues. I like my blog to be a place of encouragement, whether it is to dress better or to grow in your walk with Christ. However, there are people out there, some of whom might be following my blog, that need a different kind of encouragement.

Life really can be stinking hard! Relationships are complex and often the source of our deepest and darkest pain. More often than not, people who are going through great difficulty do not feel at liberty to talk about the situations they are facing, which means, they are not getting any support or encouragement. People who are going through great loss, also, don’t always feel free to talk about their grief and pain. I’m not really sure, how we got to this point. Why is it that we are afraid to let people know that we are not okay? Why do we hide our pain behind a smile and tell everyone who asks that we are doing fine? Maybe it has to do with not being able to express the deep pain and sadness we feel. Perhaps we are afraid that others will think less of us, if we show them our reality. Maybe we are just too dang tired from trying to cope, that we’d rather not put in the effort to explain all that is going on.

Image by  lisa runnels  from  Pixabay

Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay

I think there is something much deeper and darker going on when we are struggling. Obviously, I believe in a real God and a real devil. I believe that Satan is our enemy and he is out to kill and destroy.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
— 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)
Image by  steffenwienberg  from  Pixabay

Image by steffenwienberg from Pixabay

Our enemy is compared to a roaring lion. Why do you suppose Peter used the idea of a roaring lion, rather than that of a snake or some other creature? Obviously, lions are creatures to be respected. A lion can easily kill a man along with a host of wild creatures. Peter didn’t just make the comparison of the devil to a lion, but to a roaring lion. There is significance in the roar. Roaring commonly means, “This is my territory. Don’t get anywhere near.” Isn’t that interesting? Our enemy isn’t just trying to trip us up, he is trying to make us his own. He wants to claim us as his territory.

There are two problems that come up when we are going through difficulty that really affect our next step and our way of thinking. The first is our own focus. It is incredibly easy to focus on our pain. It is, our pain. The struggle is our struggle. Why wouldn’t we focus on it? This is made even harder when there is pain, illness, anxiety and broken relationships. Job loss is hard, but add to that a divorce and a persistent gall bladder problem and you are probably going to be feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
— Proverbs 4:25 (NASB)

Why is our focus so important? When you are walking you need to watch where you are going. This is especially important if you are walking on a narrow road, a path along a steep gorge or across a Lego filled living room. in those situations, it might be important to not be looking at your cell phone, reading a book or closing your eyes. This is also true when we are driving. The need for this straight forward, pay attention routine is even more important when things are getting chaotic, such as heavy traffic or passing pedestrians or bikers.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

When we are going through the hard bits of life, or even through the longer pits of life, we need to keep our eyes on our Savior. In fact it is even more important to focus on Him when we are faced with difficulty. I have been reading, Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. I started this book a while back, got about half way through and got busy, so put it aside. When I picked it up a week ago, I decided to start again at the beginning. There is so much good stuff in this book. Read these two quotes:

It is not the yoke, but the resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our Master and Keeper, finds and secures the rest.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Remember how Christ tells us if we are weary and heavy laden we should come to Him.

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
— Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

Murray was referring to these verses when he was talking about the rest that is secured in Christ. Now look at this next piece from the same chapter in Murray’s book.

With this grace secured, we have strength for every duty, courage for every struggle, a blessing in every cross and the joy of life eternal in death itself.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Christ is to be our focus. Come hell or high water, this Warrior Prince named Jesus, has our back for every duty, every struggle and every cross we have to bear in this life. All you have to do is come to Him and believe He will do it.

The other problem that arises when people are going through hard times is the ignorance of those around them. How many of you have been struggling with a situation, only to have a friend give you advice on how to solve your problem? How did that make you feel? If you are like me, when I was going through a very difficult time in my life, the last thing I wanted was advice. What I really wanted was an arm around my shoulders, a friend who would pray with me, not tell me they would pray for me, a sincere hug and two listening ears.

Image by  Anemone123  from  Pixabay

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

My dear friends, I can not emphasize enough how important it is to keep your mouth shut and refrain from giving advice when someone close to you is going through a hard time. Give hugs, give time, bring food, pray with them, listen to them. If they ask you for advice, then and only then, open your mouth and be sure you are speaking from the Lord, not from your own large vat of worldly knowledge. In addition to that, sincerely, truly and intensely pray for that person. You will not know all the details and that is okay. God’s bigger than you and will work it out. Just pray.

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.
— Proverbs 11:12 (NASB)
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.
— Proverbs 17:28 (NASB)
Pixabay - hope

Life is difficult. Some of you are going through things that you never thought you would have to go through. Don’t give up. Keep you eyes fixed on the author and perfecter or our faith. And for those of you who are watching a friend or loved one suffer, don’t give up on them either. Pray, for and with. Love, help and even just sit in silence with them. For all of us, let’s remember this:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)



Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

Pixabay - shower

This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well. 

The Drudgery of Disappointment

Events over the last week have left many people feeling disappointed. We all know disappointment. We have all been introduced to that feeling of being let down, overwhelmed and done in. Disappointment is part of our lives. Who hasn't felt the frustration of difficult relationships or the strain of hardships at work or in the home? Who hasn't found themselves looking with anticipation to an exciting event only to be let down that it wasn't what we had hoped?

Pixabay

Pixabay

There are present disappointments, the kind that we face daily. There are also presumed disappointments. These are the ones that we believe will happen just by the mere fact that life continues to move forward. Disappointment can lead down a path of greater difficulty.

I'd like to devote this post to looking at two ideas. The first is that disappointment breeds disappointment. The second is to think about things we can do to combat disappointment.

Disappointment breeds Disappointment:

1. Dwelling on the disappointment. Putting too much thought into anything isn't necessarily healthy. Even good things can become distractions in our thought life, causing us to become less productive and even depressed. When bad things happen, we must go through a process of digesting them and learning to cope with them. That is healthy. However, continuing to focus on our sadness, our struggle or our worry over the future, is not healthy. 

2. Laying blame. We all want to ascribe blame. It is my husband's fault that I did this. It's my kid's fault that happened. It's my boss's fault that I lost my job. Think through your day. Who did you blame today? That bad driver who cut you off? That slow cashier at the grocery store? The lazy waiter at the restaurant? Notice how I added an adjective before each of those people, bad, slow, lazy. It had to be someone's fault that I had a crummy day! Or could it have been, I didn't get up early enough to get to work on time without racing? I could have made a list when I went to the grocery store earlier in the week when I had time, so I didn't forget that one item I needed to cook dinner....and why doesn't my spouse ever take me out to dinner? Maybe the waiter at the restaurant had one too many customers like me, disappointed and grumpy!

3. Letting disappointment turn into something more fierce and controlling, such as anxiety or anger. Disappointment, as I said before is a natural part of life. While being occasionally anxious or angry is also normal, these feelings should not continue unchecked. Anxiety is basically a fight or flight response that will not turn off. If you have ever had a panic attack you know what I mean. Anger and the subsequent damage it can do to our own health or the health of others is also an emotion that is not meant to be the norm. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

By allowing the three above mentioned processes take root in our lives we enter into a vicious cycle of disappointment breeding, not only disappointment, but other emotions such as anxiety and anger, which in turn can affect our health and the health of those around us.

Now let me turn to the idea of how to handle disappointment. 

For the one feeing the disappointment:

1. Don't dwell there

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)

You have heard me harp on this before, but I only keep bringing it up, because I know it to be true. We are the only ones who have control over our minds. We can let disappointment rule us, or we can take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. Even if you are not a Christ follower, you have control over your mind. If you dwell on all that is hard, sad, or bad, you will feel overwhelmed, discouraged and worn out! There are so many beautiful things to dwell on, from the beauty of creation to the lovely feel of climbing into a nice warm bed or eating a delicious meal. 

pixabay

pixabay

2. Don't blame. Blame is not going to make the problem go away or get better. Be proactive. Find a way to make a difference in your home, in your job, in your community and yes even in your nation. My mother-in-law is a a big proponent of calling her elected officials, asking questions and stating her concerns. If enough people were actually doing that sort of thing, you can bet it would make a difference. Even if you don't see results immediately, you can know that you are doing what you can to make a difference. Being proactive takes away the feeling that you have been hurt or disappointed and gives you power.

3. Don't let deeper emotions take root. While anxiety and anger are just as normal as feeling disappointed, these emotions when left unchecked can result in much deeper trauma, not only to you personally, but to those you act out on. If you feel that you are heading down a road of being overly anxious or angry about a situation, find a good counselor, pastor or friend to talk to. Even making small  adjustments in your lifestyle can make a difference in your attitude. When I am anxious I quote scripture, listen to music or go for a walk. When I am overly angry, I do deep breathing, letting the anger go as I breath out. 

For those dealing with disappointed people:

Even if you are not the one dealing with disappointment you probably know others who are. You can be a light in their life and help them through the difficulty they are going through.

1. Acknowledge their disappointment. Don't say, "Get over it!" or "I don't understand why you feel that way." You may not understand, but the point is to be understanding. Let them talk, and try to understand where they are coming from. 

2. Use your own experiences with disappointment to have empathy

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
— Matthew 5:7 (NASB)

You'd be surprised how extending mercy can build bridges and break down walls! Your willingness to have compassion and mercy on someone who is struggling with disappointment could be the very image of Christ that person needs to see.

helping people - pixabay

3. Give of your time. Sometimes people just need a friend to help them over the disappointment. Invite them out for lunch. Ask them to go for a walk with you. Get some fun movies to watch together, preferably something not controversial. If they are willing, pray with them. Let them see you are a real friend, one who has also experienced disappointments. Be open and honest. 

I hope if you are reading this and you are experiencing disappointment that you will find some encouragement here. I also hope those of you who are not struggling right now, will extend your hand in kindness and compassion towards one who is.