Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a wellspring of life. Proverbs 13:12
What if the answer to your current struggles is completely off your map? What if there is more to be gained from your circumstances than you can see? How would you live differently if you knew The Lord has greater plans for your life?
Most of us experience depression and anxiety everyday. Perhaps not to the point of being “clinically significant.” But enough to drain our energy. We’re down because something hasn’t gone well. And worried about a future that mightn’t be any different.
- If you’re in Survival Mode …
You’ve already experienced a lot of failure and disappointment. Which has left you with a deep sense of inadequacy. And you have lost all hope. You have resolved to just hang on. To try to create the best life possible in your personal Egypt.
- If you’re in Management Mode …
You’ve determined to beat whatever (whomever) has kept you from your Promised Land. You’ve adopted the popular belief that “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” You fight against yourself. And everyone else. Find ways to whip people into shape. Taking charge is your solution.
But what if The Lord has Something Better in mind?
Your circumstances – everything you face and will ever face – are there to draw you back to The Lord. He put specific desires in your heart. And He is The Only One Who can fulfill them. He wants more for your life than mere survival. He also knows that if you take charge, you’ll make a big mess. For someone. Probably yourself. And the ones you love.
What if God isn’t answering your prayers because He has Something Better in mind than what you’ve been praying? Why not ask Him what He wants to do? Then pray accordingly. He’ll answer that prayer! (1 John 5:14-15)
A Higher Calling requires two,
closely-related ways of approaching life.
- Love God. Delight in your personal relationship with Him. Talk to Him about everything. Absolutely everything. He knows that you are only dust. And He totally understands your feelings … and your frustrations. So be honest with Him. Remember His promises. Especially the ones about not leaving you and helping you overcome everything that comes against you. Listen for His voice. He may just listen to you for awhile. But He will speak to you. Always give Him thanks. Lots of thanks.
- Love others. Especially those who have hurt you. Respect each person’s free will. God does. Even so, always hope and pray and believe for God’s best in their lives. Speak words of blessing and think kind thoughts. Imagine what The Lord will do.
A New Perspective
Our vantage point is limited. Things look very different from above. Ask The Lord to show you how things look from where He is. He delights in showing you His ways. And He has a glorious purpose for your life. It may not look glorious to anyone else. But it will to you.
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
Maybe you remember the Berenstain Bears’ Inside Outside Upside Down. I know it well because I read (past tense) it to my three sons. The title describes the way many of us have been misinformed about how to have a successful marriage.
Looking over my journals for the last 20+ years, I can clearly see how much time I’ve spent whining and begging God to do something for me that He’s already done. I’ve pleaded with Him to be with me, to take care of me, and to bless what I’m trying to do.
In short, I’ve looked at my life from a place of need. Trying to talk God into making my life better, even as I tell Him what it should look like. I’ve determined what the outcome should be, rather than asking Him to show me what He has planned and to teach me how to partner with Him. But that is changing. Quickly.
TAKING through self-effort
Many pastors and counselors actively encourage couples to use a “Bottom-Up” model that is totally inside outside upside down!
- Tell your mate how you feel and what you want.
Unspoken assumption: I should get what I ask for.
- Plead with God (whine and complain) until He listens to you.
Unspoken assumption: I need to work hard at getting close to God.
- Beg God to do something about your spouse and bless your marriage.
Unspoken assumption: God must fix your mate before you can be happy.
This approach is not only self-focused, it emphasizes what is wrong. It is past-present focused. And we all know you can’t be looking behind while you walk because you’ll surely stumble and fall.
RECEIVING through Abiding
My journals look a lot different nowadays as I’m learning to abide, to receive, and to give thanks for what God has done for me in Jesus, is now doing in my present circumstances, and has planned for me. In other words, my approach to my relationship with Him is now present-future focused. Hallelujah!
You don’t have to beg God to give you something He’s already promised. Just learn to abide in His love.
- Abide means “to remain in, comply with, obey, observe, follow, keep to, hold to, conform to, adhere to, stick to, stand by, act in accordance with, uphold, heed, accept, go along with, acknowledge, respect.”
Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
- Receive means “to be given, presented with something.” God is the Creator and Initiator of all things. He freely gives us His Love in His Son (John 3:16) through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Plus he freely give us grace (Ephesians 1:6), peace (John 14:27), and wisdom (James 1:5).
Paul wrote: “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:35-36)
- Gratefulness means “warm or deep appreciation for kindness or benefits received; thankfulness for something received from another.”
Paul encouraged: “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
BOTTOM LINE: Abiding, receiving, and being grateful takes your focus off what’s wrong and puts it on what’s right. Whatever you think about will be magnified, not only in your mind, but in your heart and your actions as well. And it’s the only way marriage can be truly enjoyed for a lifetime … in case you were wondering.
What conversations are you having with The Lord? If you slow down and listen to yourself, you might find that you’re falling into a familiar pattern.
I know from experience how easily our prayers can become a totally unproductive, one-way “conversation” with Jesus.
To affect a more effective prayer life, do these three things:
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:1-5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25
We usually think of being “in the loop” as a good thing. But we can also be caught in a loop – of negativity and “stinkin’ thinkin’.” It’s time to get out of the loop and into The Truth!
Study the Word
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-8
Connect with The Holy Spirit
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
Practice The Truth
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32