Not Responsible for the Outcome

goalsContinued from here.

A big lesson that God has been teaching me is that I am responsible for obedience while He is responsible for the outcome. This means that I cannot take credit when whatever I do is wildly successful, nor should I beat myself up if I don’t see any harvest from my labors. The outcome of whatever God leads me to do is 100% under His control.

This is not an easy concept for me to process. As a recovering control freak, I am very attuned to the ways in which my actions result in particular outcomes. I am a planner by nature. I like to know what the goal is and then come up with a plan to meet that goal. I am very outcome-oriented by nature. So, when God tells me to do something, regardless of the outcome, I’m being led outside of my comfort zone.

I wonder if one reason God has me investing lots of time and energy into projects that, at least for now, have not reaped many dividends is to teach me faith. He also might be teaching me humility so that if/when He changes the outcome, I’ll know that He caused those results rather than me.

One lesson I have been learning over the last few years is that people love a hero. They see successes in someone’s life and assume that success came because of that person’s efforts and talents. However, God is the hero, not me, so perhaps keeping me unsuccessful (by the world’s standards) at this time is one way to ensure that He will get the glory whenever He brings in the harvest.

God has brought about several successes in my personal life over the past few years, which I have previously blogged about. This includes enabling me to forgive my child abusers, healing my marriage, and healing my eating disorder. People will sometimes comment upon what a “good person” I am, and I am always quick to respond with, “I am not a good person; I have a good God.” I know that I am not responsible for the positive outcomes in my personal life – that’s all God.

So, perhaps He is doing the same thing with my ministry aspirations. Perhaps He is making sure I trust Him with the outcome so that I always know that He … and not my own efforts … is responsible for whatever success He brings in the future. In the meantime, I’ll obediently follow His lead and resist the temptation to judge the outcome. That’s not in my job description – it’s all up to God.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace writing “#Goals.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Am I on the Right Path?

i_dont_knowContinued from here.

A delay in the harvest can cause us to question whether we are even doing God’s will or whether we misunderstood God’s direction for us. When we aren’t seeing results from our labors, we can easily assume that we must be on the wrong path. However, many people in the Bible did not see immediate fruits for their labors. Abraham, Moses, Noah, and David are examples of people who had a wait a long time before they saw a payoff.

We also cannot assume that things getting worse instead of better is a sign that we are on the wrong path. For example, Nehemiah dealt with strong opposition throughout the entire project of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Paul also indicated the we can face opposition even when the direction from God is clear:

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” ~ 1 Cor. 16:8-9

When I don’t see results, I sometimes question whether I am “hearing” correctly from God. I have noticed that as I partake in the path that God has led me on, I feel more alive. It’s like my battery has been plugged in – I can feel energy flowing through me. As I work on the task, I feel energized rather than drained, even when I am not seeing fruits for my labors.

The converse is also true. When I’m continuing along a path that God is leading me away from … or whenever I walk on a path that He has not called me to …. I won’t feel energized. Instead, I’ll feel drained.

Learning how to discern God’s leading can be challenging at times, so spend time in prayer asking God for wisdom and discernment about where He is calling you to serve Him. Sometimes His calling is only for a season, and as He is drawing you away from that path, you’ll find that you are no longer energized and have lost your passion. Meanwhile, another direction will seem to call to you. Sometimes, it’s a direction that has never appealed to you in the past. When that happens, I know that God is working in me because I feel a passion for a direction that has never appealed to me in my natural state. I actually find those paths easier to follow because I know only divine intervention would make them look appealing to me.

As you grow closer to God, your interests will better align with His, and you will find yourself being drawn in directions you never imagined would interest you. Keep praying and trusting God enough to keep moving forward. Follow wherever He leads, and you’ll be amazed by the journey that God has planned for you.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace scratching her head and saying, “I don’t know.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Persevering through the Deserts

never_give_upOne of the life lessons I have learned is to persevere through the desert seasons. When we go through seasons in which we aren’t seeing the fruits of our labors, we can be tempted to give up … and that’s exactly what the Enemy wants us to do! God promises that we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up, but the temptation to give up can be strong when we aren’t seeing any positive results for our efforts.

I have been in a long season of planting seeds without seeing much of a harvest. I used to write a blog on a different topic (under a different pen name) that was successful. I believed this was my “calling,” but God had other plans. I found that I gradually lost interest in the blog and grew to realize this was because God was redirecting my focus elsewhere.

I went through a season of “in between,” where I felt led away from the successful blog, but there was nothing replacing it, either. About a year later, God placed heavily on my heart to write a book entitled God’s Way Actually Works, and I did. That book took over a year to write, but no agents expressed interested in it. God then placed heavily on my heart to write a second book entitled God’s Healing Actually Works, which is a 40-day devotional that walks the reader through the process of cooperating with God toward healing from any emotional stronghold. No agents expressed interested in publishing that book, either.

Throughout the time that I was writing both books, I was also working a full-time job, so I didn’t exactly have loads of free time to write them … and yet nobody is reading them. My husband encouraged me to start a new blog in conjunction with the books, but I kept sensing a “no” from God until December 2016. And then, out of the blue, I got a huge “do it NOW!”

My former blog had thousands of readers, so it’s been humbling to start anew under a different pen name and begin the process again. At this point, I have invested ~ three years of energy into writing Christian living books and blogs without seeing much of a harvest, but I won’t give up. God has a purpose and a plan that is good, and this season of planting will one day reap a harvest if I don’t give up.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a sign that says, “I give up” with a “don’t” symbol over it. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Perseverance: Developed through the Moments

first_downContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared a five-step procedure that I developed through reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which is helping me stay connected to the true vine. While I am certainly not perfect at facing trials, I am finding it easier to respond rather than react by taking 30 seconds to work through the five steps and redirect my focus to God, which keeps me attached to the vine instead of trying to slay the dragons of life myself.

I am finding that perseverance is developed through the moments, which is such a relief because I am much better able to handle one moment well than I am a rough week … or month … or year. If I knew that I needed to persevere through an entire year of trials, I would be likely to give up before I start because I know my inadequacy. However, I can make a right choice in this moment. As long as I keep making right choices moment by moment, those moments will add up to days … and then weeks … and then months … until I have persevered for a year.

I don’t think God expects us to persevere perfectly. Instead, He is looking for what Lysa TerKeurst calls “imperfect progress.” God is well aware that we are going to fail from time to time, and that’s OK. He’s more concerned about our overall progress over time than a failure in one moment. So, even when I blow it, I can pick myself back up, dust myself off, and resolve to progress in the next moment … and the one after that.

When I view developing perseverance as a series of moments rather than as one long “pass/fail” event, I have hope that I might actually be able to do this. I’ll never do it perfectly, so it’s a relief to know that’s not a requirement. I can extend myself grace as I learn, just as Paul learned, how to be content in every situation. And who knows? Perhaps one day, I’ll actually experience joy in the trials as I grow toward maturity and completeness.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing on a football field above the words, “First Down.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

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.

Continued here.

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

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.

Continued here.

[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.]