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)



How to Fight Giants

A couple of weeks ago I posted a fiction piece that I wrote about giants. (See that post here.) A week after that I shared with you a few of the giants that I regularly fight in my life. (See that post here.) This week I would like to focus on a few methods for fighting the giants in your life.

We all are battling giants. Most of these we live with, without even thinking about it. Fear, anxiety, depression and selfishness are just a few of the giants that many of us regularly battle. Perhaps you have let the giants take over. Maybe they have moved into your life, unpacked their bags and decided to stay a while. Are you even aware of the giants that are claiming ownership to your space: physical, emotional and spiritual? Often, the first step to fighting against a giant is to acknowledge the “elephant in the room”.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Name Your Giants

I think it is essential to know what you are fighting. Sometimes we might name one thing, but in reality it is something else. For instance, you might think that the giant you are battling is depression, but in reality it is fear. Scrutinizing your feelings and the circumstances behind them can help to identify what the real giant aka problem is. Here is a list of questions you can ask that might help to identify what giants are hanging out at your place.

  1. When do I usually notice this feeling/giant (name the feeling - is it fear, sadness, frustration, anger, self-loathing, etc.)?

  2. How often does this feeling happen? Is it only once in a while, every day, only in certain seasons, and so on. I struggle with discouragement, but it is much more prominent during the winter months when there is less sunshine. You can see a previous post I did here on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  3. Are there certain triggers that bring this feeling on or make this giant appear? For example, I struggle with fear, as I pointed out in my previous post. Things out of the norm will often produce a feeling of fear in me. It can be something mundane like going to the dentist, or it can be something fun like planning a trip where I have to fly.

I believe being able to recognize what giant you are fighting will enable you to have victory more often.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Study Your Giants

When dealing with any enemy or problem it is best to come at it with some sort of knowledge base. If you deal with anxiety read up on anxiety disorder. Don’t just read secular works, pick a few that are written from a Christian, Biblical perspective. Know what the root causes of anxiety are. Become more self aware, not to the point of becoming self absorbed, but to the point of understanding yourself and the people and circumstances around you, so that you know why you are feeling what you are feeling.

Until I finally read up on Seasonal Affective Disorder, I had no idea why I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged during the winter months. Obviously, we all get a little tired of the long winter with the cold, illness and unpredictable weather, but my fatigue was more so than usual and my desire to crawl into a warm hole with a fuzzy blanket was very real. Once I began to look into it, just reading a few online articles I realized that was, what affected me every winter. Knowing what it was and why it happened actually made me feel better. It also gave me access to resources to actually fight against this seasonal giant.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Fight Your Giants

Before I get to far into this portion of the post I want to clarify that not everyone is capable of fighting their giants without help. Depression can be so extreme that a person can’t even get out of bed, let alone raise a sword and fight. I am not a professional counselor or a licensed, practicing psychiatrist. These ideas are merely coming from my own experiences. I trust that if you feel your giants are too big to battle on your own that you will seek help, both medically and/or psychologically.

Pixabay

Pixabay

1 - Pray. In our lives as Christians there is nothing more powerful or effective in fighting our giants than prayer. Prayer puts us in contact with the Almighty God and it is from Him that we receive the power, wisdom and tools for fighting our giants.

The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
— Psalm 6:9 (NASB)
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
— Psalm 20:1 (NASB)
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.
— Psalm 35:1 (NASB)
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.
— Psalm 59:1 (NASB)

2 - Use scripture. God’s word is powerful. It is compared to a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) Since the Bible is compared to a weapon, it would seem to make sense that we can use it as one. That being said, what does wielding the scripture as a sword look like? That depends on what giants you are battling.

Let me use my own giant called Fear as an example. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to counteract thinking that does not line up with God’s will for us, I have to got to the Bible and find the scriptures that deal with those thoughts. In the case of fear, these are a few of the arrows, I have in my quiver.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
— I John 4:18 (NASB)
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NET)

If God did not give me fear, then where is it coming from? You bet! From the same place the giants originate, Satan. We would have never known fear except that sin entered into the world. My ability to remember and recognize God’s word as truth, makes a big difference in how effective my weapons are going to be against the giants.

When I become afraid, I go back to the scripture. I quote it, I yell it, I stomp and I shout. My goal is to chase the giant out of my house. I tell him he is not welcome in my life and according to God’s word he has no hold over me. Whether your giant is fear or food, depression or discouragement, selfishness or sexual addictions, scripture is the weapon to ram through that beast’s beating heart!

Pixabay

Pixabay

3 - Speak truth. In a world where truth has become a relative thing with no concrete foundation it may sound strange to say speak truth, when we are talking about battling giants. However, since as Christ followers we believe God’s word to be truth, then it makes sense to speak this truth and back it with scripture.

If you are being crushed by the giant called Worthless speak this truth,

“I am made in the image of God; Genesis 1.”

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Psalm 139.”

“I am loved with an everlasting love; Jeremiah 31.”

“I am chosen; I am royal; I am holy; I Peter 2:9.”

That is truth and that does not sound like a person who is worthless. That truth can help to chase those giants away.

I hope that reading this will give you hope. We all struggle with these giants that are constantly getting in the way of living a free life. I also hope these tips will give you some relief and some victory as you battle your giants.








Thinking Ahead to Easter

I have always loved Christmas and Easter. When I came to Jesus the idea of a mighty, all powerful God willing to be born and die, for our sakes, was and still is, remarkable. What would possess such a powerful being to cram His holiness into human form? What great motivation moved that same being to go to a cross? Many say that it was His love for us. 

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

Obviously, scripture concurs with the idea that God loves us. He loved us so much that He was willing to send His son to die for us, and not just die, but actually become human. That would be like me becoming an ant, so that I could save all the other ants from that shoe about to crush our hill. 

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13 (NASB)

What I find fascinating is that God didn't need to love us. I mean He could have gone on for another billion centuries, whatever that looks like in God time, and never created another living being. He was wholly perfect and, shall we say, content, in His God-head. He doesn't need us. He didn't create us because He was lonely and wanted someone to talk to. 

Photo credit StockSnap -  Quino Al

Photo credit StockSnap - Quino Al

Could it be that God created us for something much more relatable than just a desire to make something out of nothing? Maybe God created simply because He could. Perhaps His artistic nature wanted to make something tangible and shall we say earthy. I'm not an artist. I can draw a little bit and took a ceramics class in high school, but that's where my ability ends. However, I can write. When I finish a piece and I  reread it and am moved to tears then I think, "Dang! Your good!" This isn't a matter of pride, it is a matter of being able to use that creative force that lies in all of us.

We are made in His image, so I must believe that God is especially creative. Just look at the fish, birds, bugs and animals. Look at the millions of people in the world, and we are all different! Amazing! If you gave me a yellow, blue and red crayon, I would only be able to come up with a certain number of color combinations, but God....well, He not only colors outside the lines, but outside the entire box! 

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

I can just see God as He began that creative work called life, with all of it's complex DNA combinations and miracles at a cellular level. He had to be thinking, "Dang! Your good!" Ha, ha. Whether it be the complexity of the human eye being able to see or the return of salmon to their spawning ground without a GPS, God moved with creativity when He brought this world about. 

Photo credit StockSnap 

Photo credit StockSnap 

Now, try to imagine that the work of art you had just created wound up ruined. Would you have proceeded to pour your passion, your heart, your very essence into something you knew was going to get so messed up? God did! He knew that a serpent's whispered temptation and a human's lustful response would ruin all that He had spoken into existence. But with that knowledge He created a plan. A plan for our welfare. A plan for our salvation.

You see, just as we would do all in our power to preserve our creative efforts, or the creative efforts of others: think van Gogh, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Mozart, Handel. Bach, Beethoven, and so many more, God wouldn't just throw it all in the trash. He made a way for His creation to be redeemed. That redemption comes through Jesus Christ. 

As we look forward to Easter in a few weeks I hope you will take some time to think about Jesus and who He is. He is waiting for you. He loves you. He wants a relationship with you. 

Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
— Romans 10:13 (NASB)