Two years ago, on a different blog, I posted something very similar to this (I altered much of the substance to be more reflective of where I am in life now, but the points and verses are the same). What I find interesting is something that one of my friends says – it goes something like this: you’re either in the middle of a crisis, just ended a crisis or going into a crisis. Two years ago at this time I was out of my crisis but would fall into a nine-month “funk.” And now, two years later I am out of a one massive crisis and am dealing with little ones day in and day out.
Anyway, the original post was a reflection as I headed into my 38th birthday. So if you’re any good at math, you know that I am now a week (plus) away from my 40th birthday… And coming from a family that has never cared about the age on a driver’s license, I couldn’t care less about the number. I mean, I’m actually being kinda childlike about it. Minus the body aches and ailments… I could do without those.
Anyway, these were some things that I felt Jesus taught me two years ago and I think they are still applicable today.
1. God will give you strength (I can do all this through him who gives me strength – Philippians 4:13). I originally wrote this after I got down to 15% body fat. I was waking up at 4 AM to do cardio before work, lifting weights at lunch and doing more stuff sometimes after the kids went to bed. That wasn’t my doing alone. However, these days the most exercise I’m doing is lifting my coffee cup to my face so this statement is way more emotional than physical. God DOES give us strength to get through some pretty tough stuff. I look back at these past few years and am amazed at what I accomplished. It took me using that strength, and stop being a victim, to get to good pastures.
2. Jesus suffered too (My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? – Matthew 27:46). As I’ve become much more knowledgable about His suffering, and REALLY understanding His sacrifice, I know that any pain that I feel emotionally He felt too. Think about how He was treated by those who should have been His peers (rabbis), His family (He didn’t just not go outside when His mother and brothers showed up because He didn’t want to be interrupted… and also how He was rejected in His home town), and the elite. Whenever we are rejected or hurt, He knows that pain all too well and we can rest in Him.
3. You are part of a bigger plan (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11). Why are you being called to take that new job at work. Changing your church. Making that friend. Sitting still in the midst of a hurricane… God calls us to do things that might be horribly uncomfortable and maybe even unsafe. It’s all part of the plan, just roll with it (I realize this is easier said than done most times).
4. Read the book (All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Most of us can’t actually “hear” God’s voice the way we hear each other (and we needn’t try to do that, we’re told throughout scripture that the book is what we need.). The Bible is the only way to know what God wants to tell us. Also, I think it’s important to note, we can’t just equip ourselves with one-liners and stances to be able to judge other people (the way the Jewish elite did to Jesus). We need to understand what the bible needs to tell US. I don’t need to read the bible to justify my stance or view on a topic or a person, I need to read it to give me insight on what to do with ME.
5. Transform, don’t conform (Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2). My friend I referenced earlier also says that if your conscious tells you to do, or not to do, something you need to obey it. It’s from above. So, if God is calling me to take that job or quit this one or move away or get married, all the while friends and/or family are in the background jumping up and down because they think it’s a bad idea… Guess what. I answer to God, not them. This is what being transformed is – allowing our life to be transformed for Him, not conforming to those around us. It means listening to that quiet voice, that’s been fed the word and knows the right paths.
6. Shine that light (In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16). I just cannot express this enough. If you are in the light, you’re going to have light too. Just shine it. Nothing is more exciting to me than to see others shine theirs or know when mine is lit brightly (conversely, I detest when mine is merely a flicker). God set us apart. He made us different. He gave us light to shine it and to attract others. Trust me, they’ll notice. I am who I am because of others with their amazing light. I wanted to be their kind of joyful and content. You can do it too.
7. Bear each other’s burdens (Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2). This is tough. There is a fine line between being an empathetic friend/spouse/family member, to being a doormat, to being a “physical empath” BUT usually those who are on the same walk with you won’t treat you like a door mat (and if you are spiritually strong you won’t absorb other people’s problems). Our brothers and sisters need us, sometimes very, very deeply. There may be nothing you can physically DO but just let them know you are praying for them. Everyone is different. Know that what you might need in a situation isn’t what your friend needs. Take no offense but don’t ignore them. Bear those burdens and bind the wounds.
8. Don’t throw pearls before swine (“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces – Matthew 7:6). This is hard because we are called to love and if you’re like me, sometimes it feels like it’s oozing out of control. What’s important is to be sure you are guarding your heart, the vessel of this all-important love, from folks who are going to milk it dry. It’s YOUR God-given heart and love IS God. Don’t spin your wheels trying to chase after someone who’s not going to share love (GOD) back… And this goes for mates as well as friends. You need to share it with the right people and I find, as I get older, it’s easier to pick the right ones out.
9. Forgive (Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:21, 22). Forgive when you are wronged and move on. You won’t forget. Some wounds are mighty deep. Some wounds have both physical and emotional scars. However, we are called to forgive. How are you going to let your light shine or your love flow if you are carrying around grudges? Forgiving is hard, yes, and it can be one-sided. I have been on both sides of forgiveness and both are sometimes difficult in their own ways. The fact is, however, that we are mandated to forgive. It’s not optional.
10. Personal Growth (But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 3:18). This original post had “love” as #10. I feel like “love” is a given. If we forgive and bear burdens and shine lights then that is love. What I’ve learned about in a year has brought me back to a place I once was.
See, I’m a learner. I love learning. I’d take being a student over actually working any old day of the week. Something that I used to do before kids, before career and started even before marriage was self discovery. I would eat up self-help books. In college, if I was having an issue with something, without resevation, I would march myself into a counselor’s office. Close to graduation I was having panic attacks and marched myself right back to the counselor to do bio-feedback (which actually did wonders). The only thing that I would negatively say about all of that, aside from the actual quality of the “care,” is that there was no godly approach to it. I think that was why I struggled so much. I felt very alone.
Some people say that counseling is for weak people or for people who don’t “hear” God’s direction. Others say that it is dangerous because you become a robot to someone else’s ideas. These viewpoints are from people who have never sat in the chair opposite a good, qualified, God-fearing counselor, or from people who don’t want you to become emotionally strong or “better.” Also, people who are afraid to tell their stories feel better by judging other people who share theirs – because the sharing person is doing something the afraid person is incapable of.
So, for this “personal growth” topic… After reading Jerry Bridge’s “Trusting God” months after my miscarriage, I have been a sponge and I finally feel like myself again. … Because I’m continually learning and also because I’m continuously executing. What good would it be to learn all this stuff and not put it into action? Me being emotionally healthy, due to personal growth, is imperative for my husband and children. My husband continually growing as well is equally important.
I don’t want to be a cranky elderly individual because I didn’t deal with issues and problems in my past or hadn’t learned how to effectively deal with continuous problems in my present. I want to be one of those old people who is a joy to be around… This means that I cannot wait one more day to “grow.” I grow today and the days that follow.
11. Surround yourself with people on the same path (That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. – Romans 1:12). This one is an addition to the original list. It wasn’t until I started sharing about my personal struggles with close friends that I found out how similar everyone else’s struggles were. Some problems I felt were unique were not at all. We all have approached them differently and all “succeeded” because they worked for us.
As a married couple, both committed to serving Him first, I find it’s more enjoyable to surround ourselves with couples on similar paths and with similar belief systems. A marriage with two people actively putting God’s will FIRST and everything else (including the spouse’s) second is imperative. God’s spot is first and my spouse is second. Surrounding ourselves with couples who model that helps us keep on track. We can all encourage each other in our walks with God.
… Take what you like and leave the rest. I’m not a preacher, teacher, or someone ordained in any aspect of life. I just like sharing what I learn and am always floored when I get emails from old friends, or new friends who are comfortable, telling me how something I wrote struck a chord with them. In my sharing I’ve been able to encourage people to get back to church, to seek professional help and to assure them they are loved despite feeling so alone. Maybe being “old” has something to do with it. Maybe knowing that my reward isn’t here on this earth has a lot to do with it (I needn’t feel embarrassed by anything I write because one person’s opinion has no hold on me).
Anyway, I pray 40 is much less exciting than 38 and 39 were. I could use some time off.