Grace Where You Are

graceI say it is better to be content with what little you have. Otherwise, you will always be struggling for more, and that is like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)

Ponder It.

  • What does contentment mean to you?
  • In what areas are you most discontent?
  • How are you growing in contentment?

Receive It. Consider the acronym is PUSH or “Pray Until Something Happens.” While we might like the concept, it’s not biblical. We like to think our persistence pays off, and yes, God wants us to constantly seek him, but our relationship with God isn’t about a push; it’s about a pursuit. Pursuing God’s will isn’t about praying until something happens. Something is happening: God is present when you go to him in prayer, seeking and trusting him. God is listening, and he will not let you down. The “something” that happens in prayer might not be what you had in mind. From God’s perspective, the best “something” for you might be the process of waiting or struggling and growing closer to God during that time. Even though you might question when and how he’s going to answer, he’s answering and he’s pursuing you. As you find rest in the process of pursuing God, you’ll find contentment.

Contentment isn’t a static status; it’s a process. We don’t arrive at a place of contentment and camp under it. We move ahead in obedience, and we trust God to guide and provide. As we trust, we find contentment. Suffering on earth is inevitable, but we can experience contentment even in our suffering. We may not understand what’s going on in our lives, but we can be content to know that God understands each and every moment. God doesn’t waste a single opportunity to teach us a lesson; it’s just that sometimes we’re not listening.

Live It. God will not waste the opportunity to teach you about contentment today. Anticipate it. Acknowledge it. Live it out loud in your relationships and circumstances.

Turning Yourself Over

2964e5515fa0efc67f3ed7a6a04df9a8So I began to give myself over to despair concerning all my work that I had labored at under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:20)

Despair is something we turn ourselves over to, submitting to it. Sometimes it lasts for a moment, but other times, when we repeat the turn into despair, our choices become a habit. We begin somewhere, but that leads us to somewhere else.

Where are you beginning today? What are you turning yourself over to, submitting to? Has it become a habit? A healthy or unhealthy one?

The Process of Wisdom

012015wisdom_timI am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths. (Proverbs 4:11)

Wisdom is a process. We don’t get it all at once. God walks with us and pours into us. We have to be willing to receive. And not just expect to receive with no effort. We must seek. In order to be taught and guided, we must we willing to learn and follow. The process of wisdom is a relationship.

The Process of the Promise

img_0011We need the process that gets us to the promise of God. Not just the promise.

Knowing the promise isn’t enough. We need to struggle to experience and accept it. That way, it becomes part of who we are, part of our faith, part of our relationship with God.

When we read or hear one of God’s promises, we can say, “Hey, that sounds good. That sounds consistent with who He is. I get that.” But it is in daily life, where the rubber meets the road, that it becomes a part of us.

And sometimes we struggle to accept God’s promise. Maybe we struggle as soon as we read or hear it. Or maybe we struggle once we encounter something in the real world that seems contrary to it. But God’s promises were made for the real world. They’re as real as anything gets.

Get to know God’s promises by getting vulnerable. Let Him show you, not because He has to prove Himself to you but because He’s enough. Let Him show you, not in the way and timing you want and expect, but in surprising ways and places. Let Him show you, because when you experience Him, your faith is challenged and grows.

God’s promise is always worth the process.

Spiritual Rehab

Rehabilitation isn’t a quick fix. It takes time, perseverance and patience. But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong (Galatians 5:22-23). Patience isn’t just a quality or skill we have. It’s a process of growth. So is rehabilitation.

patience-loveRehabilitation can rarely be rushed. Patience can never be rushed. A physical therapist develops a plan for rehabilitation over time. The combination of exercises over time meets goals. It’s not simply the exercises that heal the body. It’s also the limit of exercises. Just because 30 repetitions are good for rehabilitation doesn’t mean 60 are better. The increased challenged and decreased rest time will likely be detrimental and cancel out some of the positive effects of the therapy. If the therapist decides your body needs a full week’s rest in between sessions, going to another therapist on alternate days to speed up the process will likely not work as you’d like. Even when you’d prefer to push through and get to the end result faster, you might find the end result you reach more quickly isn’t the intended end result at all. Lack of patience changes the rehabilitation process.

The same thing happens spiritually. God knows what you need and when you need it. He knows when you need to exhale and completely relax in His presence. He knows when you need to inhale and gather all the strength He pours into you for perseverance. Pushing through on what you think is your own strength, courage, and agenda is likely not going to help you as much as you believe it is. You might see some short-term benefits, but the long-term wear-and-tear on your relationship with God isn’t worth it.

Proving God

I started actively searching for God in my early twenties. I had a lot of information about God from my childhood, but I didn’t have a relationship with him. I don’t ever remember considering a close relationship or thinking one was possible. Looking back, I see moments God was drawing me close to him, allowing me glimpses of the possible. God is God, and God is good, even when we don’t acknowledge him.

During the process of trying to figure out who I am and why I’m on this earth, God came up in conversation and showed up all over the place. I didn’t always acknowledge it was him. In fact, I was a bit antagonistic and skeptical. I wanted proof that he existed and was everything that people said he was before I would step into this faith thing. I was not about to look foolish.

In reality, it didn’t matter how foolish I looked. It mattered how foolish I was being, and relying on my own understanding was—and still is—foolish. I was stubborn, believing I could sort through all the details of what people for centuries before me had sorted and ultimately come up with the right answer. I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. I was smart.

At least I was smart about one thing: I sought absolute truth. When I began, I didn’t know if it actually existed, but I was willing to set aside a lot of assumptions and seek. That step of openly seeking was just the crack in my tough intellectual exterior that was needed for God to show up and for me to be open enough to consider who he is.

Even when I began to believe God exists, I didn’t necessarily believe he is who everyone says he is, and you know what? He’s not! He’s not who everyone says he is; God is who HE says he is! But I hadn’t yet accepted him for who he is. I wanted him to prove himself to me.

As I look back on the process, I recognize how self-centered I was. Who was I to ask God to prove himself? Why does God ever have to prove himself? Why do we expect him to justify who he is? He just is. Period.

I don’t have to prove myself a mom. I am a mom. Period. Even if my daughters would disclaim me, I would be a mom. Even if something happened to them, I would be a mom. No one can take away my motherhood from me. If someone said I’m not a mom because they’ve never seen me with my daughters, so they have no proof I am who I say I am, I am still a mom. No proof required. It is who I am.

God is God. No proof required. No matter what you believe, God is God. No matter what you say, God is God. No matter what I deny, God is God. Proof or no proof, God is God.

I don’t just think God is God. I don’t just believe God is God. I know God is God.

And I know God personally. I’m glad I sought him. I’m glad he passionately pursued me—and still is.

Being Resolute in Forgiveness

Forgive us for our sins, because we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. (Luke 11:4)

When have you struggled to extend forgiveness to someone?

When have you struggled to receive forgiveness from someone?

How completely do you accept God’s forgiveness of you?

Forgiveness is not easy. It’s easier in some circumstances than others, but it’s definitely not a simple process. It’s not the same in every situation. There will be times when someone says “I’m sorry,” and you can easily say, “No problem!” Other times you might hold onto the hurt for years. Someone might not actually say he or she is sorry. You might wait, expecting an apology and expecting to be able to forgive once the apology is given, but if you can’t forgive without the apology, you likely can’t forgive with the apology. Your forgiveness isn’t reliant on someone’s guilt and offering of forgiveness. We want justice and can’t imagine getting it without something tangible. God’s forgiveness doesn’t require justice. If it did, none of us would be forgiven. God’s way of forgiving is undeserved. Even when we know someone doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, we have to extend it when we’re trying to live by God’s will. We forgive because of who God is. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t learn lessons from what has happened in the past. It doesn’t mean you never think about it again. It doesn’t mean whatever is forgiven has no impact on your life. There are still consequences. Forgiveness simply places the situation into God’s hands. It’s the act of saying to God, “I yield this to you and trust you in guiding me how to deal with it. Use it to draw me close to you.” Forgiveness is more about your relationship with God than the worldly justice you crave.

Say “I forgive” to someone today. It can be to someone in your past or present. It can be verbal or written. You might need to say it to God because you no longer have contact with the person or don’t know how to reach them. It might be for something small or something big. It might be for a small piece of a larger issue or the big issue itself. Start somewhere. Start today.