Perseverance: Getting through the Moments

Continued from here.

In my last blog entry, I asked why it’s so hard to stay connected to Jesus in every area of our lives when Jesus promises much fruit as long as we stay connected to him. I think one reason this is so difficult for me is that I don’t choose to stay connected in the moment of conflict. My natural inclination is to react immediately, and I think I need to press the pause button and remind myself not to detach from the vine.

Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, is really helping me with this. She stresses the importance of having a procedure in place for those “unglued” moments so you can pause before disconnecting from the vine. She explains the five steps and shares her personal plan. She then encourages you to develop your own plan.

I am pleased to report that I am making progress using my plan. Here are the five steps that work for me:

  1. “Help me do this right” – This reminds me that my natural inclination is to react wrongly. I need to depend upon God to stay connected to the vine.
  2. Four fundamental beliefs — I remind myself that God loves me, is good, is with me, and is in control. I typically “forget” at least one of these whenever I start to come unglued.
  3. “It doesn’t matter what I see. It matters who You are.” – This helps me remember that God is bigger than whatever I am facing.
  4. “I know my God is able. He was faithful before, and He will be faithful again.” — This reassures me that God really is going to work this situation for good, no matter how impossible it seems in the moment.
  5. “Help me do this right” – Repeating this phrase reminds me that how I behave in a trial affects more than just myself. Other people are watching my reaction, so I need God to help me set a good example for others.

Since I have started applying this procedure in my life, I have been more successful in staying attached to the vine at the moment of decision. Rather than simply reacting and detaching from the vine, I am choosing to stay attached. It only takes me about 30 seconds to run through the steps, and then I am better to think through my response rather than simply react.

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[Graphic: Cover of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy]

Perseverance: Jesus is the Vine

tumbleweedContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, accepting my complete dependence upon God does not come easily to me. My natural inclination is to do as much as I can by myself, but God wants me dependent upon Him in every aspect of my life. Once I fully accept that reality, then I will learn contentment as Paul learned it. Even though I know this in my head, I still have not fully digested this reality … to my own detriment.

Jesus used the metaphor of the true vine and branches to explain our dependency upon him. Jesus is the true vine, and we are the branches. If we will stay connected to him (by doing what he tells us to do), then we will bear much fruit.

Think about the importance of a vine to the branches that bear fruit. The nourishment that the branches need to bear fruit comes from the vine. If the branch separates itself from the vine, then it will wither and die. As long as the branches stay connected to the vine, they effortlessly produce fruit. However, all the effort in the world won’t make fruit grow on a branch that is disconnected from the vine because the needed nourishment isn’t available.

Why is our natural inclination to try to live a fruitful life apart from God? When you think about this logically through Jesus’ metaphor, it makes no sense, and yet that’s exactly what I try to do with the molehills in my life. I recognize that I cannot be fruitful with the mountains of life when I detach from the vine, but I continue to pull away from the vine when I encounter molehills. I see the folly of this in my head, but I’m still working on digesting this truth so it becomes a part of my character.

I have a choice, just as you do. We can stay connected to Jesus in every aspect of our lives and bear much fruit in both the big and small areas. Or we can detach parts of our lives from Jesus, put forth much effort, and fail to bear fruit. The choice seems obvious, so why is this so hard to do? I guess that’s why we need many trials to learn this difficult lesson.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing near a tumbleweed. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: Dependency upon God in the Smaller Challenges

up_to_hereContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared that I actually find it easier to be dependent upon God – and thus remain more content – when I face HUGE life challenges than when I face smaller ones. To quote a friend, “I can valiantly fight off a shark but then get nibbled to death by guppies.” Why is that?

I have learned that I can remain content in HUGE life challenges while continuing to experience extreme discontent in smaller challenges because of my refusal to depend upon God for them. Let’s see if you can relate to the mindset that I struggle with:

Let’s say I am juggling several annoying life challenges at once, such as being overcharged for my cell phone, having to keep rescheduling my son’s orthodontist appointment to accommodate makeup basketball games, and training a new dog who starts whining at 5:00 a.m. (even on Saturdays!!). None of these life annoyances is outside of what I believe I should be able to handle on my own. I think I don’t need God to deal with them … not that this is a conscious thought. I simply omit God from these areas of my life.

Then, more gets piled on – I get poison ivy, so I’m itchy … and then my son’s carpool buddy has to go out of town for a week, so I’m on double-duty … which means I have to make up the missed time from work … which takes two hours out of the time I have to do chores around the house that week … and so on … Suddenly, the same person who valiantly faced down her son’s major back surgery is curled up in a ball on the floor sobbing because I can’t handle all of this!!!!!

What God wants is for me accept that I am dependent upon Him in every area of my life and seek His involvement in the molehills just as much as I do in the mountains … but I don’t (although I’m learning) because that’s not what I want from God. I want to stay in control, and to accept that I am 100% dependent upon God means I must give up that control … and that’s very difficult for me to do.

You see, what I want is for God to tame the beast. I believe I can probably handle three of the molehills on my own, so I want God to reduce the size of the collective fire, and then I’ve got it from there. I can handle this on my own – I don’t need God’s involvement if He will just keep the molehills below a certain level. THAT is the mindset that God wants to break in me, and He uses trials to do it.

How might my life and outlook be different if I accepted that I am 100% dependent upon God in EVERY area of my life, big or small? More on that in my next blog entry.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking angry and holding up her hand next to the words, “I’ve had it up to here!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: Learned Dependency upon God

no_thanksContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I talked about how God wants to break our self-sufficiency so we learn to depend upon him. Note the use of the word learn. This is a lesson that must be learned over time, and perseverance through trials is how we learn it. Once we do, we develop the ability to remain content no matter what happens in our lives.

Learning to be dependent upon God has been a particularly challenging lesson for me because of my history. As a severely abused child, I loathed dependency because that was what I perceived as being responsible for my trauma. I could not wait to become an adult so I would NEVER have to depend upon ANYONE EVER AGAIN.

Note that I said I struggled with being “dependent upon” God. I did not struggle as much with learning to “depend upon” God, but I had absolutely no interest in “being dependent” on Him or anyone else.

Let me explain the difference: I want to be able to depend upon my friend to show up as promised to give me a ride to the airport, but I don’t want to be dependent upon her or anyone else to give me a ride anywhere. I can take care of myself, thank you very much! I’ll call a cab, walk, or hitchhike before I’ll allow myself to “become dependent upon” that friend or anyone else giving me a ride anywhere. See the difference?

My natural inclination is that I want to be completely self-sufficient, not having to depend upon anyone for anything. So, God allowed trials into my life, such as infertility and an eating disorder, that were too big for my limited resources. I had to become dependent upon God because they broke me. My options were to stay broken or to depend upon God to intervene. There was no third option.

Interestingly, because of God’s excellent track record with intervening in my massive life challenges, I am actually more content when facing HUGE issues than I am when I face smaller ones. More on that in my next blog entry.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up her hand, saying, “No thanks.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: Breaking Self-Sufficiency

helpContinued from here.

A friend who is under heavy spiritual attack for doing the right thing asked why God allows spiritual attack when doing His will. After all, if God wants this done, then why not remove all of the obstacles and make it easier?

The short answer is that God has more in mind than the end goal, and He is a multi-tasker. While God is interested in the “job” He assigned us to do, He is even more interested in changing our character. As our character changes to become more like Christ, then the spiritual attacks lose the power to bother us so much. Put another way, the tests leads to perseverance, which leads to maturity and completeness. If God removed the obstacles, we would never become mature and complete.

One aspect of our character that must be broken is self-sufficiency. The only way to do this is to allow situations to come into our lives that we don’t have the resources to navigate. For example, when my then-15-year-old son had back surgery, I did not have the physical or emotional resources to take care of him. I am not a nurturer by nature, and his level of need after coming home from the hospital far surpassed the limited resources I had to take care of him. Nevertheless, I did it because God was my sufficiency.

Paul tells us that…

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~ Phil. 4:11-13

As Ann Voskamp pointed out in her book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, note the repetition of the phrase “I have learned.” Contentment wasn’t some gift that God magically dropped out of the sky onto Paul. Paul had to learn contentment. And how did he do that? By letting go of self-sufficiency in trials and finding his sufficiency in God:

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~ Phil. 4:13

In my next blog entry, I’ll talk about what letting go of self-sufficiency looks like in my life.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand below the word, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: Choosing Obedience

i_forgive_youContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I encouraged anyone with a shattered heart to go to God for healing before proceeding with perseverance. I, personally, was too broken to persevere beyond the decision to stay with God until after God healed some of my pain. He is faithful, and He will heal your pain if you will cooperate with Him in His healing process.

After God had completed some healing in my life, the next step toward perseverance was doing what He tells us to do in the Bible. Put another way, I put spiritual disciplines into place, such as the seven fundamental practices, which empowered me to trust God more as He continued to heal my emotional wounds. For example, I learned through experience that He will only heal some emotional wounds if I obey His command to forgive. Forgiveness is actually His mechanism for healing emotional pain, which is why He commands us to forgive.

Believe me – If I can forgive my childhood abusers, you can forgive whoever wronged you. I truly hated my abusers (and had very good reasons to hate them), but I chose to believe God. As I released my hate, anger, bitterness, and rage toward my abusers, God healed my emotional pain. The more I experienced God’s amazing healing power, I more I trusted Him as I moved into future trials.

When we obey God, we align ourselves to receive His power into our lives, whether it’s through emotional healing, financial provision, or another need that we bring to Him. The most powerful reason I have to trust God with the next trial is that He was faithful in the last one. The more I experience God’s faithfulness in my life, the easier it becomes for me to trust Him with the next trial.

If there is any area of your life in which you are choosing disobedience, I strongly encourage you to repent and align your actions with God’s Word. This will invite His power into your situation, and He will prove Himself faithful. That one experience will give you the momentum to trust Him a little more (or distrust Him a little less) as you face your next trial … and the next one … and then the next. God generally won’t intervene in areas of your life in which you refuse to be obedient, so repent, align your ways with God’s Word, and invite God’s power into your situation.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a halo and angel’s wings between the words, “I forgive you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: God the Healer

Continued from here.

In my last blog entry, I addressed two of three truths from the Bible that helped me choose God in my trials: (1) God was with me all through the child abuse; and (2) I will have trouble in this world, but Jesus has overcome the world. Today, I’ll address the third concept that helped me make peace with my past and trust God as I faced new trials. Here’s the passage:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor. ~ Is. 61:1-3

I learned about this passage of scripture through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, which I cannot recommend highly enough, particularly if you have been emotionally shattered by life as I was. I learned that Jesus’ first “job description” was binding up broken hearts. There would be no need to bind up hearts that have not been broken, so this must mean that God doesn’t prevent our hearts from breaking, but He does heal them … and I am living proof of this. So, I don’t need to fear heartbreak, despite its pain, because God is bigger than my broken heart and can give me a new heart that is no longer shattered.

Some Christians try to gloss of over the heavy issues in life, but I didn’t have that luxury. I came to God with a heart shattered by severe childhood abuse, grief over my father’s passing, infertility, and parenting a special needs child. That’s a quadruple heavy load, but God healed all of it.

Perhaps you know what it’s like to have a heart shattered by the death of a loved one, child abuse, rape, infertility, divorce, physical or emotional disability, job loss, or one of the many other types of traumas that life can throw our way. Your God is bigger than your pain. I know this seems impossible, but He is the God of the impossible.

Before trying to persevere through the next trial, I recommend spending some quality time with God, inviting Him to heal your brokenness. Beth Moore’s book, Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, will walk you through this process. I had to work through her book four times before I fully “broke free” from all of my issues, but it was well worth the investment of time and effort. I am now FREE from all of that pain, and God has given me a new heart. He can do the same for you.

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[Graphic: Cover of Beth Moore’s book, Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender. Courtesy]