Victorious Living through Victorious Thinking

Continued from here.

Holding every thought captive to Christ is simple: it’s just not easy. It is simple because God has given you the power to choose what you think about. It’s not easy because it feels natural to allow your thoughts to flow freely without questioning them. Victorious thinking takes effort: passive thinking takes none. I choose to challenge and control my thoughts in obedience to God’s Word, which is why I generally live in victory these days. And when I don’t, I know how to get back on track.

I blogged previously about a method I learned about through Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which I shared about here. In a nutshell, whenever I catch myself allowing my thoughts to run rampant, I’ll press the pause button by saying,

God, help me do this right. I know you love me, you are good, you are here with me right now, and you are in control. It doesn’t matter what I see or what I feel; it matters who you are. I know my God is able. You were faithful before; you will be faithful again. Help me do this right.”

This five-step response stops my runaway thoughts dead in their tracks and helps me shift my focus so it includes God.

I generally don’t struggle with runaway thoughts in the first half of the day, likely because my hour of quiet time before starting my day gets me off to a strong start. However, as the afternoon turns into evening and I have been juggling one issue after another, I’m more vulnerable to becoming passive about what I am thinking. When I find myself feeling “off” toward the end of the day, I remind myself that God will give me a “do over” tomorrow. I thank Him that his mercies are new every morning, which helps me go to bed with hope for a better day tomorrow. I do not allow myself to wallow or engage in a pity party. I have been to enough of those in my life, and I know where they lead.

If I can learn how to hold my thoughts captive to Christ, then so can you. It takes time, effort, and repetition, but you can learn how to walk in victory by challenging your thoughts and replacing the negative ones with God’s truth.

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

Experiencing God as More Than Enough

Continued from here.

If you will take that first step of faith – the first step onto the rickety bridge – then God will be faithful and show Himself to be more than enough in that area of your life. God’s ways really do work, but we must do things His way, not our own. While my own way might be to build another bridge, charter a boat, or find another way to cross the river, His way is to trust Him – to be completely dependent upon him to keep the rickety bridge secure while you cross over the raging river below you. It is when we step out in faith in our weakness that we learn the degree of God’s sufficiency for us.

I have learned this lesson in many ways in various areas of my life, but this doesn’t make the rickety bridges I encounter look any sturdier. No matter how much experience I have gained in crossing rickety bridges, the one I am currently facing always seems like the one that isn’t going to hold. This is why it’s so important to reflect upon all of the other rickety bridges that God has safely led you across. This is my favorite Bible verse for doing this:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 9:4

Every rickety bridge that held me was a demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Because God was faithful before, I can believe He will be faithful again. As I meditate on God’s prior faithfulness, I lift up my shield of faith to block the enemy’s taunts about how this bridge could not possibly hold.

In this season of crossing the rickety bridge of the Christmas season, to avoid holiday depression, I must take a step out on to the bridge and believe that the same God who has carried me through so many other life trials is more than enough to carry me through this one. I am using the plan I designed from Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions to help me keep focusing my thoughts back onto God. I am fully dependent upon Him to keep this rickety bridge secure. My job is to keep walking and trust that God truly is in control, no matter what I feel.

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

 

Do You Believe that God Will Come Through?

Continued from here.

The situation that led to my being fired last week did not arise overnight. I knew for a few weeks that my position might end in my being fired, so I had weeks of angst over standing firm in my resolve. This tested my faith – Did I really believe that God would come through in this situation?

To help me stand firm in my faith, I used the five-step method from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which I shared about here. In addition, I followed TerKeurst’s advice about resolving to seek the LORD and following whatever He called me to do. She based this teaching on this verse:

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” ~ 2 Chron. 20:3 (emphasis added)

TerKeurst focused on the words alarmed and resolved. Jehoshaphat was alarmed that an army much stronger than his own was coming just as I was alarmed that I was standing up against management, which is much stronger than I am. However, rather than freak out, get drunk, hide, accuse God of abandoning him, or any of the other “normal” reactions that people have to adversity, Jehoshaphat resolved to ask God what to do. I reminded myself of this teaching several times during this stressful experience, resolving to ask God what to do and praying for Him to make His will very clear. The fact that God sent me a year’s worth of “supernatural severance” the very next day reassures me that I did, in fact, “hear” God clearly re: standing my ground, even though it cost me my job.

When I was tempted to dread returning to work after the weekend before I was fired, God reminded me of this passage of Scripture:

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary …” ~ Is. 8:12-14a

God did become my sanctuary during this challenging season. Not for one moment did He leave me alone in my circumstances. He carried me through them, empowered me to do what was right, and continued affirming that I was walking in His will by immediately restoring the monetary value of what had been taken for remaining faithful to Him, even at great cost.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.]

Healing Deep-Seated Anger

Continued from here.

If you frequently “overreact” to life annoyances by becoming angry, I recommend that you pray for God’s wisdom and discernment about the real source of your anger. He fully understands the source of your underlying anger, even if you do not. Invite Him in to heal whatever is driving your anger.

The same advice applies if you are a “stuffer” rather than an “exploder.” That’s how I was for many years. I carried around a lot of repressed anger from the child abuse, but I didn’t feel safe enough to express it. So, I would stuff… and stuff … and stuff … And then, about once a year, I would explode and vent everything I had stuffed over the years. That’s no way to live – not for you or for the people in your life who love you.

I found it helpful to work through my repressed anger with a therapist. He gave me tools to help me express my anger at the source. For example, I used to have an aversion to popsicle sticks because of childhood trauma. I bought a large box of popsicle sticks from a craft store, broke them one-by-one, and threw them at the wall while venting my anger toward all I had suffered as a child. This was a “safe” way to express my anger that did no harm to anyone else and did no damage to anything except the popsicle sticks, which I didn’t care about.

As part of your process in figuring out why you “overreact” to life’s disappointments, you can run through the four steps I previously shared, taking it all to a deeper level:

  1. What do you want that you are not getting? Control over what happens in my life.
  2. Why do you want it? When other people were in control over my life, they hurt me.
  3. What does God’s Word tell you to do in this situation? Trust that God is in control over my life and will work everything, even this, for good.
  4. What should you do next? Pray for God to help me stop trying to control everything that happens in my life and, instead, learn to trust that God is in control, no matter how chaotic my life circumstances seem.

If you struggle with “stuffing” or “exploding” when life doesn’t go your way, I recommend reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. She provides practical ways to invite God into your “unglued” emotions so you can stop allowing Satan to steal your joy. Remember – It’s not about the chocolate!

[Graphic: Cover of Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

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.]

Imperfect Progress

I shared in my last two blog entries that I have been dealing with a bad cold. Per my doctor, that turned out to be the flu followed by a sinus infection. Oh, joy!

The day after I wrote the last two blog entries (Day 10 of feeling ill), I fell … HARD. I awoke to so much pain that I could barely sit vertically during my quiet time with God. My quiet time wound up being fairly short – a “Help me, God” prayer following by lying down and listening to songs about how God is always with me. I became self-absorbed with all of my physical pain and ANGRY … only I didn’t have anyone to aim my anger toward. Not God. Not my son for giving me the flu. Not my husband, who was already doing so much to help me. So, I had all this raw emotion but nowhere for it to go.

Some of that raw emotion spewed out onto my doctor, which I’m not proud of. And then, after I got home, I sobbed … and sobbed … and sobbed. Where was that person who had just written about experiencing storms without darkness?

Thankfully, I am reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which talks about imperfect progress. Our walk with God is not linear – we are going to make mistakes and fall … and sometimes fall hard, as I did. However, we get back up and continuing walking, which is progress … not “perfect progress,” but progress nonetheless.

Even as I was “coming unglued” over my physical pain, I remembered that God loves me, is good, is with me, and is in control. I also knew His mercies are new every morning, so no matter how badly I messed up today, God would give me the grace to continue my walk with Him again tomorrow. I also became acutely aware that I am unable to continue to walk in my own strength – without God’s intervention, I’ll fall again just as hard.

So, I am now writing to you on Day 11 with no guilt. No question that I was guilty yesterday. I blew it in so many ways that I cannot even count. However, Jesus’ blood was enough to cover all of my sins, and so I stand before God today just as righteous (through Jesus, of course) as if I had lived yesterday perfectly. That’s grace … and that’s imperfect progress.

Continued here.

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