"I give so much. I love so much. I try so hard to do what is right. I also fail. But it feels like my life just keeps being so hard, so heavy, too much. I just don't feel like I can handle what you have given to me."
This particular memory came from the challenging years of one of my teenage children who was making poor choices. But it could have been during
my first year of marriage,
or when I had three children under five and was exhausted and hopeless that I would ever accomplish anything
or when we had money difficulties, again,
or when my son had all the letters I did not understand, (ocd, add, odd, slight autistic issues, a learning disability) and never gave me rest or peace in my days
or when family was just plain hard,
or when people hurt me, (especially fellow Christians)
and or I was lonely again amidst our 17 moves,
or or or.......
Though God created idealism in our hearts because he made us for a perfect world, and we can still imagine what our world should be like, all of us will be subject to the fallenness of this place, the challenges and difficulties of being alive amidst so many years separated from God's perfect will. And so often, our lives will be difficult because of our own unwise choices or because of the lack of wisdom or abuse of others. It is age old and historically true for all generations.
In these struggling places, it is natural to be sad, fearful, disappointed, disheartened, discouraged. And we need to give ourselves room, at times to grieve. Please know I feel so much for all of you who are in the midst of so much. I wish I had known someone to talk to through my difficulties. I do pray for you all.
Yet, it is in these very challenging places that our responses to our circumstances, to God and to others will determine the eternal fruit of our lives. It is when life is so very troubled that heroes are made. They may have the same feelings of fear, being overwhelmed, wanting to run. But they become heroes because they act courageously.
Even this past couple of weeks I have had about 5 amazing women verbalize defeat because of overwhelmingly serious circumstances--including a husband addicted pornography, a prodigal son going down a road of danger, issues with teens, a sweet one whose husband left her for another, and several just plain exhausted, burned out women who need a good rest and encouragement.
So often instead of learning to move beyond the chaos or threatening circumstances of our lives towards order or healing or productivity or Biblical solution, cultural voices give us every reason to compromise our ideals and values at these difficult junctures.
Often, we live in blame, (it's someone else's fault), or fear, (I don't think anything is going to turn out well--I feel so desperate and out of control), or bitterness, (this isn't fair) or defiance or depression (I will live in anger, I give up, I will be a victim of my circumstances, because I do not feel I am capable of getting out of this--I don't see any way forward.) or despair (I don't think things will ever changes.).
Courage and strength in a fallen world is one of the gifts Jesus came to give to us. His heart was to bring healing in relationships, to provide hope when we are tempted to despair, to bring rest to our weariness, to give wisdom to our befuddlement and peace to our fearful hearts
One of my children was with a friend last week and they talked about how glad they had parents that were "Can do," parents. I asked her what they meant by this.
My child responded, "When we faced a challenge or difficulty or something we wanted to do, but couldn't afford, or had a dream that seemed impossible, you and my friend's parents all responded, "Let's see how we can accomplish your dreams, or make money to afford the costs of your activity. Or, I know that God loves you very much and this is a training grounds for you--let's trust Him to cause all of this difficulty to turn out for your good. Basically, you always gave us a way to live forward and to make progress or to find a solution."
We talked longer at the dinner table this week as a family about this concept and we came up with three basic responses to life we see in action as a grid for living life through many of our friends and colleagues.I can do it--we will find a way forward, we will trust God, we will take action, we will be obedient
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
I can do it grid of life.
--We will find a way forward, we will trust God, we will take action, we will be obedient.
I can't do it grid of life.
"There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." Numbers 13:33
I give up, this is too much, I cannot overcome my past, I don't think there is a way forward, I just don't have the confidence of faith that I can overcome my circumstances or difficulties.
(Becoming a grasshopper in our own eyes when facing giants happened to the leaders of Israel when they faced the giants in the promised land.)
I won't do it grid of life.
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. Jonah 1:3
I don't want to do it! I am not willing to pay the price of what obedience would cost me, I want to run my own life, I want God to do things my way, I am not willing to humble myself or to change
Of course these are simplistic descriptions of life and I cannot cover all the bases in one article. As you read this article, do you see yourself in one of these mindsets? Where are you in your faith-walk with God Midst your stressful journey of life? Are you a "can do" or a "can't do" or a "won't do."
Jesus said, "In this world you have tribulation, (great stress). But, take courage, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
There is so much in scripture to address all of these attitudes--and perhaps we display all of these grids at different moments of our lives. But I believe that God wants us to learn, day by day, in all circumstances and relationships, to trust Him, to find courage in our hearts and to practice getting stronger in the power of His Holy Spirit, to live our stories faithfully, to move from chaos or fear to a place of order, productivity and peace of mind.
Because I have had so many letters, messages and emails lately about so many women's circumstances that seem overwhelming, I thought I would take the next few Monday's to go through Own Your Life on my podcasts. I will be taking one chapter a week and apply it to women's issues, marriage, motherhood, and a practical application for children.
Wherever you find yourself in life, whatever season, I will be including ideas about education, lots of scripture, applications to women in general and to moms alike.
My publishers even said they would put Own Your Life on sale on Kindle, and through all ebook stores so that those of you who do not have it could purchase it and study the book along with me--only one chapter a week. So I have connected this book below to a place where you can purchase Own Your Life on sale in all the places audio is sold. I have also included a connection to the physical book, as well as the Bible study guide for each chapter with new stories, verses, questions and applications.
I hope this is of great encouragement to you. It has already been so very encouraging to me in the present circumstances of my own life as I have been preparing for this. Hope you also enjoy the podcast today where Kristen and I introduce this series which will begin next Monday. (We wanted to give you a chance to order the book if you do not already have it.)
Be inspired this summer to Own Your Life and to Own your life puzzle and circumstances in order to flourish right where you are. It is my hope that this series will refresh you as you take a break from the busy school year and breathe in God's grace right where you are.
The Study Guide and Planner