Facing Distractions and Discouragement

How do you respond to distractions and discouragement when you’re seeking direction?

Writing my first book initiated one of the most intense spiritual battles of my life. I worried about my family—especially my seven grandchildren.

I had not been available for their needs with all my blogging, speaking, and writing. Guilty thoughts saturated me like a heavy rainstorm. And worry encompassed me like a dark thundercloud overhead.

Then, a Word broke through the storm clouds like a ray of sunshine: “[T]here is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 NLT).

My husband, Dan, had scheduled his retirement date just weeks before the deadline to turn in my book manuscript. So my direction faltered, and my thoughts were like a honeybee, flitting flower to flower. Lord, how will I ever finish this book in time?

I completed my book, but not without spiritual battles. Ephesians 6 offers us this truth:

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.
God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. (Eph. 6:13–17 The Message)

What scriptures have helped you during the spiritual battles of your writing life?

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Laying Your Worries at God’s feet

worry

Matthew 13:22 “What was sown among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

The other day I sat in my garden, basking in the sun and singing Great is Thy Faithfulness. Soon my song faded, and my thoughts slipped to family concerns—my family, our future, my job. I found myself fretting over things I couldn’t control. Not only was I worrying about today, but I was also borrowing troubles from tomorrow, the rest of the year, and the future. It was piling up on my shoulders one large boulder at a time, and I let the stress steal my joy and the message in the song.

Rather than praying, I worried. I let my fear grow, making me weak and afraid.

Elizabeth Charles once said, “When we call on God, He bends down His ear to listen, as a father bends down to listen to his little child.

That day, I turned my cares over to Him. Like a small child I walked into my father’s arms, feeling the warmth of His embrace. I told Him about every worry—and He listened. He is faithful to all His children despite our faults, despite the times we want to pull our worries back from where we’ve laid them at His feet. He loves us, and promises to provide for our needs.

Will I find myself again someday worrying needlessly? Yes, I probably will. Thankfully, I have a Savior who understands me and has abundant grace.

Failing Machines and Eternal Trust

CalendarImageShe was doing well. She had just gotten remarried to a man who not only loved her, but also loved her children. The heart failure of the past year was behind her and with the help of a specialized machine, her body was getting stronger each day as she awaited a heart transplant. Her future seemed brighter than it had in long time.

And then. . . suddenly. . .

The machine failed.

Her heart stopped pumping and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, she was gone.

In my bewilderment and sorrow over her family’s loss – actually, over the world’s loss of a beautiful, kind-spirited woman who lit up a room with her smile – I was struck afresh by the realization that as much as we want to believe we can control the circumstances of our lives, only God knows the number of days each of us will spend here on earth.

We fret and worry. We diligently put money into savings accounts and strategize about the future.

We give our children vaccinations, teach them about stranger danger and make them wear seat belts when they ride in a car.

We take our vitamins, make healthy food choices (most of the time!), and schedule our annual medical checkups. We think we are in control.

But then . . . suddenly. . .

The machine in which we have placed our trust fails.

We come to an abrupt awareness that we weren’t ever really in control and we spent so much time worrying about our future that we forgot to enjoy our present.

Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26 NIV)

We cannot control the number of our days here on earth, even with the most technologically advanced machines. But when we place our faith in Jesus, we can rest assured that He controls our eternal future.

Let’s continue to be good stewards of our resources, to make healthy lifestyle choices, and to lovingly care for our children. But let’s also remain keenly aware that the things of this world will fail us. Worry is pointless and life is precious. We are not in control, but when we hold tightly to the One who is, our eternal futures are brighter than we can ever imagine.

I Wish I Could Google God

Photo/KarenJordanIf only I could “google” God for answers to life’s problems. Then, I could just type a question and get one right answer—the Truth.

As a writer, I don’t always come up with the best questions to ask to find the solutions I need. And at times, I don’t know what to pray when I’m burdened by life challenges.

So, I wish I could enter a word or phrase into my Internet search engine, trusting that God would grant me the exact direction I needed.

As I share in my family’s struggle with their painful issues, I don’t even pretend to know how to help them manage their lives. How can I intercede for someone else, when I don’t know how to pray about my own problems?

Many days, I can’t even express the concerns of my heart. But I’ve discovered some powerful promises in the Bible that help me navigate through the turbulent waters of my worry life.

How can we find rest from our stressful lives?

… Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30 NLT)

 How can we know that God hears our prayers?

 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. (1 John 5:15)

What if we don’t know what to pray?

 … the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Rom. 8:26-27)

What if you don’t believe that you can hear from God? God’s Word answers, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me … ” (John 10:25 NIV).

What are you worried about today? Philippians 4:6 encourages us, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns” (MSG).

I still wrestle with how and what to pray at times. I am thankful for the recorded Word of God. It serves as a lifeboat that I can rely on when unexpected storms roll in, or when I need to pray for others who are drowning in their ocean of worries.

Father, we need you, but we don’t know what to say.
Thank You for Your Spirit, Who guides us when we pray.
Holy Spirit, intercede—You alone know our needs. Amen.

Will you share a promise from God’s Word that has helped you find direction?