A number of years ago, I was more than drained. I had young adults trying to foray into the secular world and find their place in life. One teenager was exploding with hormones and challenged my limits every day. Another was in between colleges and depressed while having to work 40 hours a week. And then there was Joy, full into hormones and teen anxt and I in the midst of ministry, teaching, keeping everyone at least a little centered and only barely making it one day at a time. It was September and all yearly activities were heating up.
Many Septembers in a row were crisis moments for our ministry. The finances would be slim because the money from mom's conferences would run out in August. Often people who were regular financial supporters of our ministry would quit giving in the summer. We still had staff to pay, rent for our office and monthly bills for our office.
One gloomy afternoon, Clay came in sober of face and said, "We are not going to make payroll. I don't know where we are going to get money to pay, and it may be a few months until we can catch up. We are in a financial crisis, again!"
Immediately a dark cloud came over me and then it was followed by the feeling of carrying a ton of bricks. My first reaction was often, "How can I fix it? I could speak more, write another book, get a part time job, ...!!!"
Why, when we confront a wall, are we tempted to immediately try to take care of ourselves, when all along, our shepherd wants to care for us?
As I was praying alone later, in the dark shadows of sunset, I sat exhausted, weary of heart and spent. I began to pray,
"God, I can't take this on.
It is too much. I am already carrying all 6 of us and a sick parent. I am going to give it to you. Please take care of this in your way. I am leaving it in your hands because there is nothing more I can carry at this moment."
I realized that there was nothing that was going to change by fretting over it, by trying to manipulate circumstances--it was more than I could provide. But I also had a deep sense of God wanting me to just rest and leave it in His hands. To rest in my heart as I carried on through my days.
I gave him my few "fish and loaves" and knew it was not enough, but hoped that He would provide for all of these pressures while I sought to find rest and peace.
Just 3 days later, Clay called me and said, "You are never going to believe this!
We got a check for thousands of dollars in the mail from an anonymous donor with a foundation." We had received an enormously large check from someone I did not even personally know. It exactly met our need and we were able even to pay ourselves a small salary that month.
Miracles like this were not always the way God answered. But, always I can look back and see that when I gave God my issues, He always showed me His faithfulness and His ability to take care of my life--and it wasn't dependent on my ability to control or manipulate life. His resources and provision were always better than my schemes.
Usually, when we approach a new commitment in life, we go into it naively, innocently believing in easy happiness, quick satisfaction, fantasies that our accomplishments will be simple to achieve.
Ministry: We are going to change the world with these messages. Then the reality of hard work, too many needs to be met, stressful deadlines and sinful people to deal with as well as finances disillusion us.
Marriage: Now I will be happier since I found my life-companion and I think we will have an easy marriage.
And then the work of marriage eventually sets in. Slowly, we realize maybe we weren't a perfect match after all and selfishness and immaturity and personality difference begin to make life harder. We want an easy solution, a fast formula to become happy without doing the work of practicing love, growing stronger, learning to give unselfishly.
First Child and young children: I have my philosophy down and with my diligent training, good mothering and wise parenting options, my children will be wonderful, we tell ourselves.
Then, we find after years of working hard, meeting our children's constant needs, we become weary and wonder how we will make it. We see their glaring flaws. We start considering if someone else could do a better job with our children, if perhaps we do not have what it takes to be an intentional mom.
And so it goes with many areas. When we approach some of our dreams with high expectations we often find ourselves disappointed when the rubber meets the road. Or put another way, life loses pizzazz when the sheen wears off.
We look for escape.We dream of ways our lives would be better if.....
But at this point, we must seek to look at Jesus as He is and find His solutions instead of trying to escape the road of maturity and fulfillment.
We must understand God for what He really is to find a way forward. Seeing God for who he really is, a kind, gentle Father, one who takes children into his arms, the one who touched Elijah when he was weary and fed him, Jesus, the friend who roasted fish and built a roaring fire for the weary fishermen/disciples and encouraged them, will lead us to trust Him and to put our circumstances into His hands.
He is the one who will gently lead the mother with her children. And he will provide shooting stars, gentle breezes, surprises because He sees us, wants to provide and He does care.
When we know we are loved, we will last longer on the race set before us.
Yes, there is work involved in daily life, but I think there is more joy to be had. And the fruit in my own life of loving my children has resulted in the most delightful close friendships I could have ever imagined. They are such a treasure, and now I see the faithfulness was worth it. I just wish I had taken the time to fret less, stay steadfast and not wasted time when daily there were pleasures, sweetnesses that I now miss--and yes, we are still eating and paying bills. God has faithfully provided through all the years of the slim times in August.
Almost all great ventures in life come with great cost. To pursue excellence requires us to exercise our emotional, spiritual and physical muscles--and always requires us to give up our selfish ways little by little to learn to become a stronger, more enduring servant.
Even as in a marathon or any long race, eventually most everyone hits a wall,
So in life, we hit walls along the way. But finishing the race well is so gratifying in the end.
But the secret when we hit wall, is to keep going, to leave all of our burdens in his hands, to breathe in the rest that comes from someone else being in charge. Then, when we have left all in His hands, have rested in peace, we are ready to keep running the race. To find new strength, to do what it takes to finish the race and to not be disqualified.
Don't compromise your ideals when you are weary, don't follow unwise friends.
"He who walks with the wise will be wise, a companion of fools suffers harm.".
This proverb is not just for children--it applies to adults--walk with wise people who have completed their race. Guard your heart from the voices that tear you down, that say you can't make it, that you are not enough. God is always enough and wants to be our strength and hope.
I have noticed that many friends who started out well with ideals and based their decisions on what they thought were Biblical ideals, eventually, when life became harder, justified quitting the decisions that they once believed God had showed them to follow. Many people quit when life gets hard, but those who persevere will find the rewards of finishing well to be satisfying and fulfilling.
Many young women I have known who started out their journey in marriage and motherhood strong, are in the midst of justifying bad decisions to quit their ideals based on the voices of other friends who are also compromising. And their friends are encouraging them to compromise and convincing them it will be ok. I see all sorts of ridiculous messages all over facebook, the internet and on blogs where people give each other all sorts of permission to give up their ideals.
Facebook, blogs, articles of every kind tempt us to compromise our commitments and to seek relief instead of pushing through to find new strength
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength;.
I have seen peer pressure and foolish advice ruin many a family, cause many a child to stumble or to loose their parents' values and even their faith when thrown into cultural temptations too early when the parents weary of pursuing ideals with them.
There is no formula to having a trouble free life and even in scripture, we learn from the story of the prodigal son, that there will be prodigals, even to good parents. Yet, we are still called to be the wisest, godliest parents we know how to be in order to please God and actually to find the most satisfying lives. We please Him because we love Him, not because living righteously in this life is easy. And I have found, there are inherent, long term rewards in living steadfastly faithful.
The world, foolish people, facebook, friends of all kinds can lead us to decisions that have devastating consequences in the long run.
Life is indeed hard at this time in history and many times we do not have the support of our churches, our families or our culture to "do hard things" by doing the difficult work of raising godly children. But, God's Word gives us wisdom and patterns to follow because when we follow them, we will find emotional health, spiritual strength and soul vitality--and so will our children, our friends..
A few years ago, I was in London with Joel and Sarah. One morning, we left our hotel and were trying to catch the tube to make it in time to get downtown to a concert. I was running ahead when they both yelled loudly, "Mom! Stop!!!"
The problem was, the cars in London drive on a different side of the road and because I am American, I looked the wrong way when crossing the street and started stepping out in front of a bus coming fast down my lane. I didn't even see it. I didn't know that I was looking and going in the wrong direction.
Sarah and Joel were not being mean or acting in an angry way. They yelled at me because of the danger I was putting myself into. They were trying to keep me from harm. That's what a good friend does--they speak into your life to keep you from going in the wrong direction or to keep us safe.
Often, we look the wrong way in life, without even realizing it and judge life imperfectly without even knowing that our decision will have grave repercussions. Friends who really love us will guide us in the right direction, even if it creates momentary conflict. (Faithful are the wounds of a friend.)
God's ways are not optional--His wisdom is always the right wisdom. And He does not advise us in scripture about how we should live life because He wants to make our lives difficult or admonishes us because He is angry.
No, His ways are always, in the long run, going to provide the best overall health for us and give us sustainable lives. Because He loves us, because He is a good parent, sometimes He has to encourage us along difficult paths so that our lives will have good fruit.
Determine to develop friendships with those people who encourage you to be strong, those we see your potential, who will help you and inspire you to be the best person you can be.
Avoid those who give you permission to compromise, who might even advise you to go in the direction of the world's values and choices.
Decide to be excellent in your own life,
so that you can be an example to your friends, your children, your neighbors and husband of what it looks like to love well, to choose morally sound ways in life, to walk in integrity--be that friend others need to have so that they can also have the courage to persevere towards moral an spiritual excellence.
If you are depressed or discouraged, don't give up your ideals. Instead, get some rest, find a way to get refreshed. Look not for friends who will lead you into foolishness and compromise, but search out those who can help you gain perspective, those who will come along beside you to run in life with you because they also need you to run with them.
So few people stay strong in their faith and act faithfully in these times. But you have a choice to make and only you can determine to live a great story. I hope you will be encouraged today as you her Kristen and me speaking about how to stay strong and how to finish well in the race of life God has put before us.
May God grant fresh air in your lungs, energy, strength to finish the race He has asked you to complete. May you live to see His faithfulness and His favor as you follow hard after Him.