What to Do (and NOT Do) during Seasons of Uncertainty

what_the_heckContinued from here.

Are you in a season of uncertainty that appears to have no resolution on the horizon? If so, here’s a list of do’s and don’t’s to help get you through it:

DO pray for God to provide the solution to the problem. One reason a solution might not come is because you didn’t go to God and ask Him for it. Whenever you face an impossible situation, God is the first person you should talk with about it, not the last.

DO consider your motives in asking for a solution. Another reason a solution might not come is because you are asking for the wrong reasons. Make sure your heart is truly seeking to accomplish God’s will, not to feed your own selfish desires.

DO thank God for this opportunity to trust Him more. As Janet Brooks tells us in her book Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions, view this situation as “the graciousness of uncertainty.” Look for the grace in this situation. God is inviting you into a deeper level of trust with Him. Don’t squander the opportunity.

DO praise and worship God throughout this season. As we perceive that God isn’t showing up, our tendency is to withdraw from Him. Don’t give in to that temptation. Continue to praise and worship Him because He is worthy of it, regardless of the situation you are in.

DO take a trip down memory lane and recall the many times that God has moved in impossible situations in the past. He was faithful before. He will be faithful again. This impossible situation is not the exception that is bigger than God. If God could raise Jesus from the dead and break the power of death over all of us, He can handle your circumstance and work it for good.

Now for a list of don’t’s: DON’T complain about the situation. Each time you are tempted to complain, offer praise and thanks to God instead. DON’T gossip about the situation. Gossip is broadcasting God’s unfaithfulness to other people. DON’T doubt whether God can or will intervene. If you have invited Him into the situation, He is already working behind the scenes and will appear to “show up” in due time. DON’T put God in a box. His solution may be quite different from what you envision. Believe me – His way is always better. Finally, DON’T give up. God can work ANYTHING for good. I am living proof of that. If God can work good out of child sex-trafficking, He can work good out of ANYTHING

Your God is bigger. Trust Him! You will be delighted with His solution if you will persevere.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace throwing up her hand to ask what to do. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Advertisements

God is Never in a Hurry, but He is also Never Late

hurry_upContinued from here.

In both of the situations of ambiguity that I am dealing with in my life as part of a group of Christians, waiting for God’s resolution to come along has been a hardship for many of the members of each group. In one of those situations, I repeatedly told people that God’s got this. We need to trust Him and pray for a resolution. The situation lingered for several weeks, and as no resolution seemed to be coming, more complaining and gossiping took place, which broke my heart. Some people doubted that any resolution would ever come, and I would gently chastise them that this situation is NOT bigger than our God.

And then God showed up. Actually, He was working all along, but because people saw no evidence of this – only the obstacle growing larger – some gave in to the temptation to complain and gossip about the situation. When God showed up, everything moved quickly. He placed the resolution on my heart during my morning quiet time, and I did a happy dance because it was BRILLIANT – far more creative and wise than anything I could have possibly come up with on my own. Within hours, I communicated God’s solution to several key people, and the same ones who saw no way over the obstacle were delighted – DELIGHTED! – with the resolution. God was not in a hurry to resolve the situation, but when He decided to act, it was resolved within hours.

Like everyone else in the affected group, I saw that this obstacle was a problem too big for us to resolve on our own as a group. I also agreed that it was a problem that, if not resolved, had the potential to hurt everyone in the group. However, I never once doubted that God was bigger – that He would take this situation and work it for good. How could I be so sure? Because I know Him. This was not the first time that God did the impossible. Thus, I no longer question whether God is going to show up. It might not be in the timeframe I would prefer, but I have learned to rest in Him, knowing that He is going to provide the answer in due time. In the meantime, it’s my job to praise and thank Him, knowing in my bones that His answer is on the way.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging in front of the words, “Hurry up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Experiencing Peace in the Uncertainty

peace_be_with_youContinued from here.

In two of the situations of ambiguity I am experiencing as part of a group, I am surrounded by people who are impatiently awaiting God’s response because both situations seem hopeless without His intervention. In both cases, these are groups of Christians who are seeking to do His will but have encountered an obstacle far greater than our capacity to collectively resolve. Now, I am not saying that everyone in each group is being impatient – some have learned through the trenches, as I have, that we need to wait patiently and trust that God will provide an answer. However, others in both groups are so uncomfortable with the uncertainty and ambiguity that they give in to the temptation to complain and gossip about the situation as they analyze the obstacle from numerous perspectives and see no way out.

In her book Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions, Janet Brooks identifies some of the reasons why we struggle with embracing the uncertainty, such as our tendency to question whether God is really working when we so no direct evidence that He is. When people say this to me, I point out that when we plant seeds, we don’t see any evidence that a plant is growing beneath the ground for long time. The farmer plants the seeds and trusts that a crop will emerge at a future time. All we can do is plant and trust – the rest is up to God.

Brooks also points out that when we take our eyes off Jesus, we stumble and “become entangled by our weaknesses and doubts.” This is because we can only focus on one thing at a time – either the size of our problem or the size of our God. Whatever we choose to focus on becomes larger in our perspective, dwarfing whatever we don’t focus on. When we choose to maintain eye contact with Jesus, our perspective of our God grows bigger, and we learn in the ambiguity that our God is so much bigger than our problem.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling under the words, “Peace be with you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

The Graciousness of Uncertainty

fallContinued from here.

A repeated theme in my life of late is ambiguity. I’m seeing this in every area of my life – at work, church, and home. Each of these areas of ambiguity involve other people: I am part of a group facing an obstacle that seems insurmountable, and people in the group are having various reactions to that ambiguity. As I hear people complaining about the obstacles, I’m tempted to join in because complaining is my native tongue. Until God transformed me, if my lips were moving, I was complaining about something. So, not only refusing to complain when I face ambiguity but also resisting the urge to do so when invited in by others in the affected group is a real temptation for me.

Whenever I take personality assessments, one of my lowest scores is for adapting to change. I am a recovering control freak, and the last thing a control freak wants to deal with is change. So, Janet Brooks’ advice in her book Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions to embrace the changes is not easy for me. However, her advice is solid, which I have learned through many a “field trip” with God.

As I was reading through the chapter on embracing the changes that life throws our way, I was drawn to the phrase “the graciousness of uncertainty,” which Brooks advises us to embrace. A few years ago, I would have looked at you like you had two heads if you used that phrase with me. However, today it resonates deeply because I have learned through experience that seasons of uncertainty are really God’s gracious invitations to enter into a deeper relationship with Him. After all, how can we learn how trustworthy He is if He does not provide us with seasons in which our only source of stability is in Him?

I know that seems counter-intuitive, such as the answer to a prayer for patience being multiple experiences of having to wait. But if you never have to wait, how can you possibly learn patience? That incompetent sales clerk is actually God’s grace in disguise, providing you with the opportunity you need to develop patience. The same holds true for learning how to trust God. This is only leaned in the graciousness of uncertainty, where there’s nothing to stand on other than Him.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace falling. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Enjoy by Janet Brooks

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Janet Brooks, author of the book, Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions. She’s the real deal, folks. She has an amazing testimony, some of which is included in her book. I have only read the introduction and first chapter, and I’m already blown away by the wisdom in this book, written by a woman of God who has lived the walk.

The title of the book, ENJOY, is an acronym for…

  • Embrace the changes
  • Note the goodness of God
  • Jump over the waves
  • Offer sacrifices of praise often
  • You will have joy!

Each chapter covers one of these elements.

I was only a few pages into the chapter on embracing the changes when I knew I needed to blog on the topic. I always pray over what God would like me to write about on this blog, and His leading was toward waiting on Him in the ambiguity. This chapter addressed that topic nicely. I’d like to share some of the gems I learned from reading this chapter and will build upon them to share what God has placed on my heart.

You may find it amusing to read Brooks’ acrostic for how her human nature is tempted to live out her life, which I can definitely relate to:

  • Eat anything that makes you feel good
  • Notice how you’ve been wronged
  • Jump on the person who wronged you or anyone in your path
  • Offer a list of complaints to those around you
  • You will be miserable

Can anyone else relate? Or does this just describe Brooks and me? This is definitely my natural tendency whenever I face transitions and ambiguity in life, but God has shown me a better way, which I (and Brooks!) would like to share with you.

Life is filled with transitions, ambiguity, and change. There’s no getting around that. We get to choose our reaction to those transitions. Will we follow the ways of the world and complain our way through those times? Or will we learn how to walk as Jesus did and glorify God as we learn to deepen our trust in Him? The choice is ours.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Leading Rather than Following People

yes_maamContinued from here.

God does not call us to pander to people to try to get them to like and accept us. Instead, He calls us lead others to God and be examples of godly living. Jesus’ life was an example of how we should live, and he never pandered to anyone. Instead, he lived a life that glorified God. Paul said,

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” ~ 1 Cor. 11:1

This should be our goal as well. We should do as Jesus did in seeking God’s approval rather than people’s. As we do this, we become an example to others. As they follow our example, they transform into Christ’s image, leading more godly lives and bringing more glory to God.

You cannot lead and follow people at the same time. If you follow God, you will lead other people to follow God as well. If you follow the World through people pleasing, you will lead people away from God because you cannot glorify God when your priority is pleasing people.

Only God sees people clearly. When we treat others as God tells us to treat them, He is invited to move in their lives. However, when we shift our focus to people pleasing, we live our lives through distorted lenses. People seeking anything other than God are focused on the cravings of their sinful nature. They want others to do things that make them feel comfortable – their priorities are focused on themselves, not on God. That’s why people pleasing does not work: As the sinful nature shifts what it wants in the moment, the actions that the person defines as “acceptable” also shift. Only God can meet someone’s needs, and what satisfies is quite different than what our sinful nature craves.

If you really want to please people in a positive way, lead them to Christ! He is the only one with the power to satisfy their needs, and he does it in a very different way than they expect. As you find fulfillment and acceptance in your relationship with God, you become a model of what truly satisfies. You can then lead others to the source of true satisfaction.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace dressed in fatigues, standing in a tank, and saluting to the words, “Yes, Ma’am.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

People Pleasing for Acceptance

okayContinued from here.

The reason I was such a big people pleaser was that I deeply needed to feel like I belonged – like there was a place for me. Considering my life experiences, which included years of severe child abuse, losing my father to unexpected death as a teenager, being infertile, and parenting a special needs child, I don’t exactly “fit in” with most social groups. I’m different from most people, and being different made me feel excluded. I thought that people pleasing would lead me to feeling accepted and loved … that it would “buy” me a place at the table.

What I have grown to realize – and this was tough for me to accept about myself – is that people pleasing is manipulative. Rather than be myself, I changed my behavior to manipulate other people into liking and accepting me. I thought I was such a martyr for “being nice” to people, but my “niceness” came with a price – I expected acceptance in return. When that did not happen, I felt shame and anger.

Today, I truly do not give a hoot if people accept me or not. Of course, I prefer to be liked, but I’m OK if I am not. This is because I no longer value people’s opinions – I only value God’s. Because I know God fully accepts me exactly as I am, whether or not a person accepts me is irrelevant. If people do, that’s icing on the cake, but I still have the cake even when they don’t.

God loves me with an everlasting love. There is nothing I can ever do to lose that love. No matter what I lose, I will never lose God’s love. He always accepts me and is always with me, so I always have a place at His table. Even if nobody on the face of the earth loves, accepts, or approves of me, I always have God’s love, acceptance, and approval (through Jesus). Thus, my needs are always met, regardless of whether or not the people in my life accept me. Ironically, now that I do not care whether people accept me or not, I’m accepted—and even respected!—in most circles.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace bending her head down, looking sad, and saying, “Okay.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]