Are You Struggling With A Struggle?

struggle: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; to proceed with difficulty or with great effort (www.merriam-webster.com)

When have you struggled with something? Have you stayed in the struggle?

It seems like a stupid question. After all, who would want to stay in a struggle? Yet how many things have you repeatedly or consistently struggled with? Thoughts of struggles tossed and turned in my mind recently, and I began to wonder if we sometimes begin to define a struggle as such simply because of the repetition or consistency. If we could deal with something and be done with it, we might not define it as a struggle, but when it consumes increasingly more time and energy, we define it as a struggle.

We can settle into the struggle because it becomes consistent in our lives. There’s a pattern, and even when we don’t like it, we can become somewhat accustomed to it. In a sense, we settle into or stay in the struggle.

The question is: Are you active in the struggle, or have you taken a passive role, expecting not to be able to change anything or becoming paralyzed to make an attempt to try anything?

The definition of struggle indicates action – a quite intense action: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; to proceed with difficulty or with great effort.

What are your struggles?

Most will respond in one of two ways. Either they’ll indicate something acute going on in the current season of life or something chronic that seems to be repeated over a longer period. Perhaps you look back on your life and see consistencies, so you connect the dots and call it a struggle. You’ve made strenuous efforts to proceed through the difficulties. You’ve pushed against the opposing winds blowing into your face. You’ve set your eyes on forward progress and knocked barriers out of the way. Even if your situation hasn’t changed much, you’re struggling, and you’re not staying in the struggle because of the efforts you’re making.

On the other hand, if you’re labeling consistent issues in your life as a struggle but you’ve made little effort to change or move forward, you’re staying in the struggle. Actually, you might not be struggling at all. It might feel like you’re struggling, because you’ve become accustomed to thinking struggling occurs when nothing changes, but struggling involves change.

Struggling is active, not passive.

I’m not saying you can fix everything. You can’t rearrange all the messy pieces of your life and put them together into a beautiful mosaic. You can’t explain all the cause and effects, see the potential, and accept what’s going on in your life with complete understanding. You’re human. You have limitations.

God doesn’t have limitations. Whatever you can’t do, He can. He can rearrange all the messy pieces of your life and put them together into a beautiful mosaic. He can explain all the cause and effects and see the potential with complete understanding. However, as long as you live in this messy life on earth, you won’t be able to see the beautiful mosaic in its entire splendor. You won’t have complete understanding. He’ll give you glimpses, but there will always be a gap between God and you.

And that’s where faith comes in.

Faith is active. It’s giving everything, the good and the bad, to God…and trusting Him with it. It doesn’t stop there. It’s not a one-time “please fix this” request. Faith includes a trust that God can fix it as well as the acceptance that God wants you to be involved in the process. Faith involves listening to what action God wants you to take. It’s a delicate balance, because it’s tempting to declare:

I’ve given it to God, so all I have to do now is wait for Him to take care of it.

or

I know God wants me to be active in the process, so I’ll figure out what needs to be done next.

Either rationalization indicates an imbalance in the relationship between a person and God.

Faith isn’t the absence of struggle. Faith itself involves struggle. In faith, we must acknowledge God, give everything to God, listen to God, and respond to God. Faith requires trust and action.

Be cautious in how you’re defining and responding in struggles. If you tend to push ahead in determination and self-sufficiency, you’ll need to pull back. Replace your self-sufficiency with God-sufficiency. Give it all to God, including control, and let Him tell you what the next steps are. He’ll guide and provide.

On the other hand, if you tend to sit back and wait for something to happen, especially after you’ve given it to God, you need to take a step. There’s likely something you’re holding back from God: yourself. Place yourself in his hands, knowing He isn’t going to let you sit and mope. He doesn’t let spiritual muscles atrophy. He’ll get you up and moving even though you’d prefer to let Him do the work. Let Him tell you what the next steps are, and be obedient. He’ll guide and provide.

So…are you staying in your struggles? Are you struggling in your struggles?

Most important, are you faithful in your struggles?

To do this, I work and struggle, using Christ’s great strength that works so powerfully in me. Colossians 1:29

Digging Deeper. Climbing Higher.

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

The first time I visited Israel, it was as if I sliced through a tell and looked at the grandness of the cross-section. As tell (or tel) is a layer of civilization. It’s a mound-like structure created by a long series of human occupation and abandonment. As I experienced the cross-section, I savored as many details as I could, but I mainly tried to see the bigger picture so that I didn’t get confused by disconnected pieces.

I connected more pieces when I returned. I recognized roads and oriented one location to another. I steeped in familiar places and discovered new ones. With nearly every step, something “clicked” as if I could identify something familiar with something new. Not all the connections were between the two trips. Many were between places, stories, people and the Bible. Some involved research and reading I had done in preparation for the trip.

If my first trip was like slicing through a tell, my second trip was sitting at various layers and studying details.

Of course, the more I experience, the more I know there is to experience. The more I know, the more I want to know.

Learning is a lifelong adventure. No matter how much you know, there is more to learn.

Faith is no different.

No matter how strong your faith, it is only a fraction of the faith you can have. We can focus on the faith we have and be content. We can also focus on the faith we don’t have and give up on growing. Neither is productive. Instead, we can claim the faith we have, stand firmly on it, but continue to examine, tear down, build up, and take one more step at a time.

Faith is a journey. It is an adventure.

Touring Styles

There are many ways to “see” Israel. Most people sign up for a trip to Israel because they want to “walk where Jesus walked.” They do…sort of. I’ve watched throngs of people get on and off buses, follow a guide who sometimes has to use a microphone to be heard. Where microphones aren’t allowed or available, people hear what they can as they trek from one stop to another. It can be a good experience,

…but there’s a difference between touring and journeying.

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

The trips I’ve led have been a little different. We try to combine touring certain “essential” locations with exploring some less familiar ones. We keep the group small, so we get to know each other well and can help one another with questions along the journey. After all, journeying through Israel isn’t about sites as much as about heart. It’s not about gaining head knowledge as much as inviting life change. We serve the people of Israel so that we’re invested in people of today. We might be drawn by the past of Israel, but we engage in the “now.” We look people in the eyes and serve with our hands.

It’s not a perfect approach. I always long for more. As I connect one place with another, I wonder what it would be like to hike instead of drive. I savor conversations inside the hotels and at coffee shops, which makes me want to seek out and enjoy even more connections with people. During the adventure of daily itineraries, I wonder about the simplicity of routines. I come across the people living everyday lives and want to walk alongside them. Yet I have to balance the expectations and opportunities of a limited block of time.

No matter what the approach, I have to be available to journey the way God wants me to journey. That means, being available to notice, change, reflect, and learn every step of the way.

Are you touring or journeying? How available are you? How committed are you? Flexible?

Learn from others, but let God lead every step of the way.

If you’re interested in receiving information about the next women’s trip to Israel (Fall 2016) when it is available, click here.

Exploring the Familiar

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

The moment I stepped through the gates of the Old City in Jerusalem, I breathed a sigh of contentment. It felt familiar. I had walked in and out of various gates as often as possible several years before. Some streets and turns seemed as if I’d traveled them many more times than I had. I can easily get from one quarter to another. I can take a few shortcuts. Yet there is so much I don’t know. There are many streets I haven’t taken. As much as I have explored, it is a small fraction of the total possibilities.

There are adventures in the familiar.

It is in our routines that we can neglect to see the opportunities around us. We can miss the details we pass because of our focus on the destination ahead. It’s important to know where we’re going, but each step along the journey is essential. We can’t get to the destination without taking each step. If we aren’t intentional about each step, we miss out.

One of the beauties of Old Jerusalem is the side streets and passageways. I glance to the left and right and wonder: Who lives there? What are they thinking? What do they need? What has happened here? What will happen in the future? I look at the light shining on one wall and casting shadows under the archways or roof beams. The scene always changes.

So do I.

So do you.

Change with each step you take today. Explore the familiar. You’re not just here to bide the time as it passes. You cannot get back a single moment or step. Live well.

Lessons from Josiah: Pursuing the Process

Josiah4We often want all the pieces before we begin the process. We want to know the outcome before we’re willing to take a step, because after all, if we take a step toward something that won’t be the right outcome, won’t we be wasting a step? Yet a step in obedience is never wasted, whether we understand how it impacts the outcome or not.

Consider the process of Josiah’s obedience.

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he ruled thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He did what the Lord said was right. He lived as his ancestor David had lived, and he did not stop doing what was right. In his eighth year as king while he was still young, Josiah began to obey the God of his ancestor David. In his twelfth year as king, Josiah began to remove from Judah and Jerusalem the gods, the places for worshiping gods, the Asherah idols, and the wooden and metal idols. (2 Chronicles 34:1-3)

In Josiah’s eighteenth year as king, he made Judah and the Temple pure again. He sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the city leader, and Joah son of Joahaz the recorder to repair the Temple of the Lord, the God of Josiah. (2 Chronicles 34:8)

Josiah didn’t do everything all at once. Notice the benchmarks noted when he became king, in his eight year as king, then in his twelth and eighteenth years. He didn’t wait until everything was worked out before he responded. He didn’t require full disclosure of God’s plan before responding as God guided. He sought and responded along the way. He followed God as God led.

How are you following God as he leads? How have you followed him in the past? How are you following him in the present? How do you intend to follow him in the future?

It’s not about knowing all the details of each step of the way, but you can commit to a trusting, obedient relationship with God. We don’t know the significance of every moment throughout our lives, but God does. As we are obedient, we can trust that God will honor our obedience, drawing us closer to him, pruning and refining us, growing our relationship with him. Our faith grows, and it impacts every aspect of our lives, including areas in which we didn’t realize were untouched.

You don’t have to pursue all the answers, because as you pursue the process, God will reveal the truth. You will personally know him more intimately as he reveals himself to you. What might seem to be an insignificant decision becomes a benchmark of faith.

The Motivation to Move

There are times we want to be somewhere else. We repeatedly say, at least to ourselves, “If only…”

We wish dreams of someday or somewhere, believing where we’ll move is better than where we are. We often want something materialistic, yet our desire for something different can also be spiritual. Wanting something different spiritually sounds noble, right? But what do we want and why do we want it? Let’s not assume the “different” we want is always better.

In fact, when we have a desire to move on to something different, we need to look at why we want to move from where we are. If where we’re headed isn’t better than where we are, there’s no reasonable rationale for moving. Growth is preferred to stagnancy, but moving doesn’t always equal growth. Taking steps away from where we are can just as easily be destructive than constructive. We can end up deteriorating spiritually instead of growing.

Acknowledging our motivation for moving away from our current location keeps us in check. We start with intention. By looking at what we think we’re missing, we become aware of the gaps we’re attempting to fill through the moving process. When we move for the sake of moving without regard for the gaps we’re trying to fill, we’ll often end up stuffing the gaps with all kinds of makeshift junk that really doesn’t accomplish what needs to accomplish.

It’s easy to think “someplace else” is better than where we are, but different doesn’t equal better. Because you aren’t in the exact spot you’re eyeing as the “better” spot, you can’t know exactly what it will entail. What you can know is the why of your desire to move. Perhaps you’re bitter, angry, frustrated, anxious, exhausted, excited, or a myriad of other experiences that can be motivating. Are you ready to work on and through whatever is going on in your life? If so, get on with it! Ask God in which direction you’re supposed to step, and go there.

Be prepared for some hard work along the way. Be prepared to leave some things behind. Sometimes that means you leave behind what motivated you to move in the first place. The key isn’t what you think you need, what you believe is wrong with where you are, or where you think you should go. The key is what God says about what you need, what’s wrong with where you are, and where you should go.

Moving isn’t easy. It requires a lot of sorting, packing, and organizing. Yet moving is essential. If you’re not moving, you’re not growing. If you’re alive, you should be growing. God has a plan for the exact moments you are on this earth, and every single moment is intricately involved with your personal spiritual growth in relationship with him. There are times you want to be someplace else, but be certain the someplace else is the center of God’s will. You often won’t know the specifics of what his will looks like or where it is, but if you’re determined to continually move into it, God will constantly guide you as you pack, travel, sort, unpack, and organize throughout your life.

Being Resolute in Finishing What I Start

Whoever is not willing to carry his cross and follow me cannot be my follower. If you want to build a tower, you first sit down and decide how much it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t, you might lay the foundation, but you would not be able to finish. Then all who would see it would make fun of you, saying, “This person began to build but was not able to finish.” If a king is going to fight another king, first he will sit down and plan. He will decide if he and his ten thousand soldiers can defeat the other king who has twenty thousand soldiers. If he can’t, then while the other king is still far away, he will send some people to speak to him and ask for peace. In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be my follower. (Luke 14:17-33)

What are you most likely to procrastinate?

How do you typically approach projects in terms of deadlines, starting, and finishing?

If you could change one thing about your habits of perseverance, what would it be?

There will always be at least one more thing to do. You cannot cross every single thing off your to-do list. New tasks are added as you’re accomplishing another. However, that’s no reason to become paralyzed. Progress is important. It’s not the same as busyness. One is purposeful and involves growth. The other is typically a time and energy waster. Not everything is intended to be finished in the way you believe it should be finished. When finishing becomes the focus, you’ll miss lessons along the journey. Let’s not use that as an excuse to not strive to finish what we start. We often don’t know where the finish line is until we begin. We start a project and think the finish line is full completion to our satisfaction. What if we’re supposed to complete something to a halfway point, then share it with someone who takes over the next part of the process? What if we’re supposed to learn something in the distractions we experience? Let’s not make excuses for not finishing, but let’s not get too task-driven either. Let God grow you. He already started. Join him as he finishes.

Take a “next step” today. Step toward the finish of something. God provides the energy. You provide the obedience.