When You Feel Defeated

CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!

My son texted me with these words when our home team, the loveable-loser Cubs got into the World Series. Truthfully, I was stunned. And even more amazed at what happened in the next week and a half.

On Sunday when the Cubs were down three games to one–I’ll admit, I thought this was the end of their remarkable season. A victory seemed too unlikely. Once again the team would go home as the loveable losers.

But then they won and won again and won again! After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs were once more the best in baseball.

If you don’t live in Chicago or don’t care much for baseball–this victory probably doesn’t matter to you.

But the whole scenario reminds me of another unlikely victory.

Ever since Adam and Eve bit into that apple, the human race was on a losing team. We lost our righteousness, our health, our very lives. Sin and pain and death entered into the world. We were forever lost.

But then a new player joined the team. A man, to be sure, but also God. Jesus came to bat for us–to do what we couldn’t do.

He lived the perfect life we were unable to manage. He took our sin and our punishment. On Good Friday, it looked like defeat. Everyone thought the worst. But three days later, Jesus rose again–the ultimate unlikely victory!

Now Jesus says to us,

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Perhaps today you feel like you are losing. You are down three games to one and victory seems impossible. You’re beaten down by pain. Or by financial hardship. Or by disappointment and discouragement. That’s when you need to remember Jesus’ unlikely victory on your behalf.

In Jesus, we will overcome. It may not look exactly like the victory you envisioned. Perhaps you will have to battle through many more games to get victory. But in Jesus it is possible. He promises, “I have overcome the world. Anything that seems too hard for you, I can conquer. Trust me. Even when all seems lost. Trust me.”

Next step: What victory are you waiting for? Write out a prayer, thanking Jesus for the triumph that He will bring–in this world or the next.

when-you-feel-defeated

Three Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Waiting

WaitingLingerInHisPresence

Are you sitting in one of life’s waiting rooms?

Waiting for Mr. Right? For a child? For a new job?

I’ve been there too. And I have to admit, I didn’t wait well.

I complained. I griped. I made sure God knew that I didn’t like the way things were going.

But I’ve been learning a bit about waiting lately. And what I’ve discovered is that although we may hate waiting–God can use the pause in our plans for our good.

This past week I read Psalm 130. I love these verses:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning. (verses 5-6)

To dig into this passage a little deeper, I looked up the word wait in the Hebrew dictionary. The word translated “wait” in the ESV is from the Hebrew word qavah. This Hebrew word has several meanings–and teaches three things about waiting that I wish I had known when I was in experiencing a serious delay in my plans.

Three Lessons About Waiting from the Hebrew Word Qavah

3ThingsWaitingTo wait is to look eagerly for. The first meaning for qavah emphasizes how we are to wait–with eagerness and certainty. In verse 6 of Psalm 130 the psalmist compares the waiting of his soul to the waiting of the night watchman. The gloom of the night may seem long to the watchman, but he is sure of one thing–morning will come. While he is watching, he is certain there is an end to the wait.

Though our lives may seem terribly black at times, we can also be sure that God is always there for us. He is always working things out for our good. We can eagerly look for His solution to our problems.

To wait is to linger. The second meaning stresses a positive side of waiting. Usually waiting has a negative connotation. We hate waiting at the checkout line. Or for our food at Olive Garden. Or for someone to answer the phone after we’ve been on hold for 20 minutes!

But to linger is a contented way to wait. We linger over the last few drops of coffee with a friend–waiting just a few more minutes before we have to part. We linger in the sunshine at the beach–waiting a moment longer before going back to the noise of the world.

God invites us to view a season of waiting as a time to linger in His presence. Time to hang out with Him a few more hours. Time to linger in His love and peace.

God invites us to view a season of waiting as a time to linger in His presence. Click To Tweet

To wait is to collect or bind together. The third definition of the Hebrew word is a meaning we don’t have for our English word wait. Qavah can mean “to bind together.”  Waiting is hard. But it can be a time to grow closer to God–a time to connect with Him like never before. Think about it. When do you feel closest to God? When all your plans are moving along smoothly? Or when you are desperately wanting God to answer your prayers?

I have to admit–I spend a lot more time on my knees when life throws me a crisis and God isn’t fixing it as quickly as I would like. As I wait, God often reveals Himself to me in a way I haven’t experienced before. He shows me deep truths in His Word. He demonstrates His unfailing love in unexpected ways.

Are you experiencing a serious pause in your plans? Grab onto these three lessons while you’re waiting.

Look eagerly for God in your situation–expect Him to come through.

Linger in His presence.

Use the time of delay to grow closer to God.

Next step: Write out Psalm 130:5-6 on a note card or sticky note. Add the definition of qavah that speaks to you today. Post the note where you will see it often this week.

The Key to Unlock the Chains of “Doing”

being a doer can in the way of

“What did you do today?”

It’s an innocent question. One I usually like to answer. One I often use to get a conversation going.

It’s even a question I often ask myself.

I’m a doer. You too? We doers like to accomplish things. We make massive to-do lists and find glee in placing little check marks next to completed jobs. (Sometimes we even write down tasks we’ve finished that weren’t on the list just so we can make that satisfying check mark.)

But this week while I was reading and meditating on the psalms, God spoke to me about all my “doing.”

The Key to Unlock the Chains of -Doing-I was reading Psalm 118:5:

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.

And the Holy Spirit highlighted the phrase “setting me free.” The phrase unsettled my soul. But I couldn’t figure out why.

The phrase conjured up images of chains falling off swollen wrists. Of bursting out of a dark dungeon into blinding sunshine. Of running through a swaying field of flowers.

I asked God why my heart needed to hear that particular phrase.

And the answer was that I have been bound to the chains of “doing.” Being a doer is not a bad thing. But it can get in the way of being a child of God if I am basing my value on my accomplishments. If I’m focusing on what I can do. If I view myself as worthless when my efforts don’t get the results I would like.

In that simple little phrase, “setting me free,” the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: What if instead of focusing on what you have done, instead of staring at what you haven’t done (ahem where I’ve failed), you began to concentrate on what God has done?

Later in Psalm 118 there is another phrase that grabbed my heart: “proclaim what the Lord has done” (verse 17).

In fact, Psalm 118 is full of things the Lord has done: He has

  • loved me forever (verse 1)
  • set me free (verse 5)
  • helped me (verse 7)
  • protected me (verse 8)
  • done mighty things (verse 16)

And when I look back on the past few weeks of my life, I see that He has:

  • given my husband a good health report–no cancer!
  • helped me recover from a bad cold
  • given me time with my daughter and her family
  • granted me a new book contract

When I focus on “what the Lord has done” the chains of doing and the pressure of accomplishing fall away. 

I am set free.

Next step: What has the Lord done for you this week? Make a list. And as you focus on what God has done, feel the pressure of accomplishment fall away. 

 

When Your Life Takes a Plot Twist

This week I’m privileged to be featured on the incourage site. If you’re not familiar with this site you might want to sign up to get their posts–wonderful, encouraging stuff every day!

I love a good story. I like getting lost in a fictional world filled with interesting characters and an intriguing plot. Give me romance and mystery. Provide me with adventure and astonishing developments in the storyline.

In my own life, however, I greatly prefer a predictable plot. I would like my life to have the pace of a well-crafted story of my own choosing. No unexpected plot twists for me, please. Just pleasant days filled with laughter and friends. Years of successful work and close family ties.

Unfortunately real life isn’t like that. The plot that I planned out for my time on earth simply hasn’t materialized. Every chapter has had surprise twists. Events I expected to happen never did. Things I said I would not do under any circumstances became the very things God asked me to embrace.

Recently life delivered an unexpected development in my life tale.

My husband has been diagnosed with lymphoma….

To continue reading, click here to head over to (in)courage

When You’re In the Waiting Room of Life

 

waitingroomoflife

Are you in a season of waiting?

One of my friends feels like she is in a state of limbo right now. She and her husband are considering moving away from cold Illinois winters to a warmer climate. But because they have not yet made the decision to move to a new location, my friend also feels like she can’t move forward in life. Should she avoid getting involved in activities here because they will be moving soon? Or should she dive into new experiences because they are staying?

The waiting room of life is an uncomfortable spot. As we sit, waiting for a door to open to our next phase of life, we wonder, “What now?” and “What next?”

And just like in a doctor’s waiting room, when we are forced to wait we are at a loss of what to do. How many times can you read the same 6-month-old Golf Digest magazine? How many times can you pray the same prayer for direction?

One of the verses I hang onto when I’m in the waiting room of life is Psalm 5:3:

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice, in the morning I lay my request before you and wait in expectation.

waitingroomoflifePinI love the last phrase, “Wait in expectation.” When we’re waiting on God we can expect Him to do something wonderful. He promises you that He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He assures you and me that He can rearrange all our rotten circumstances because He “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The problem comes when I place my expectations in something other than God. I get in trouble when I expect life to be free of disappointment. Jesus told us to expect life problems, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). I will often be disillusioned when I expect people to fill all my needs.

So when I’m in the waiting room of life I need to go back to God. Like the psalmist, I need to bring my request every morning, trusting that He will hear my voice. I need to hang onto His promises. I need to believe in His goodness.When I'm in the waiting room of life, I need to hang onto God's promises and trust in His goodness. Click To Tweet

And then I need to wait in expectation. Hang onto His promised plan. Trust in His amazing love. Relax in His enveloping peace.

Wait in expectation.

 

 

Great Expectations: What to Do When Life Disappoints

 

great expectations

A while back, my husband and I were scrolling through Netflix, trying to find something to watch. I spied a movie with a plot line described as, “An accomplished pianist’s life takes a terrible turn. An aimless college students becomes her caregiver and the two form a bond that enriches both their lives.”

The movie had me at “accomplished pianist.” As a pianist myself, I’m drawn to stories about musicians. This movie sounded perfect.

The only problem was the movie wasn’t really about a musician. The main character only played the piano once. Music never had a major role in the plot. I was disappointed.

The movie did not live up to my expectations.

Life is like that too, right? I mean, most of us have experienced disappointments, setbacks, even tragedies that we did not expect. All our hopes and dreams become like deflated balloons that sink from the ceiling and lay around on the floor.

And if we’re not careful, our joy and trust can burst and disappear.

I think the problem is when we put our hopes and expectations in the wrong things. We expect life to treat us well. If you live in America, the land based on the “pursuit of happiness,” you expect your life to improve, to get better every day.

However, Jesus told us if that is our view of life, it will not live up to our expectations. He said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Living in this sin-sickened world, we really can’t assume we’ll have a perfect life. Instead we can expect pain, sickness, and stinking problems.

This sounds pretty grim, until I realize that there is Someone worthy of my expectations. God has promised to never leave me, never forsake me. He is faithful. He is loving. He is good. While my life here won’t be perfect, I can expect God to always come through when I need Him. I can trust that He has a fantastic plan for my life.

John 3:14-15 (MSG) says:

In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

John 315

Look to Jesus–trusting and expectant–and your life will be real. Maybe it won’t be the life you had planned. Maybe it won’t be the life you had carefully arranged. Maybe it won’t be the life you had shaped in your mind. But trusting in the God who loves you more than you know will give the life you were meant for.

Life won’t live up to our expectations. But God will never let us down.

Next step: What part of your life is not living up to your expectations right now? Write it on a piece of paper and offer it to God in prayer. Ask Him to help you let it go. Pray that He will help you trust Him for the most awesome life possible. 

When You Feel Like You’re Straining Against the Wind

 

Life often feels like one big struggle against the wind. What we can learn from Jesus' disciples in Mark 6.

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” Mark 6:48

Do you ever feel like you’re straining against the wind?

This month, I’m reading through the Gospel of Mark and when I got to chapter six, I immediately identified with the disciples in the boat. Gale force winds of cancer have blown into our lives with my husband’s lymphoma diagnosis. In my professional life, I sometimes feel like I’m frantically rowing, but not getting anywhere. Winds of loneliness and despair occasionally blow my way.

Perhaps you feel the same way. Financial tornadoes may be blowing into your life. You are constantly straining against chronic health problems. Relationship difficulties threaten to blow you down again and again.

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t leave the disciples straining at the oars on their own. He came to them miraculously walking on the water. He came to them comforting them with the words, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50). Jesus speaks to our fears, our worries, our lack of courage with assurance He is with us. He is able to overcome the worst.

What can we learn from the disciples’ experience?

We may experience a time of waiting. Although Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars in the evening He waited until 3:00 in the morning to come to them. We don’t know why Jesus waited to help the disciples. And we don’t know why we sometimes experience long waiting times for healing, for help, for hope. But we can take comfort in realizing Jesus sees us straining at the oars. He knows firsthand the struggle against this world.

We sometimes don’t recognize Jesus in the struggle. When the disciples first saw a figure walking toward them on the water, they didn’t recognize it was Jesus. Mark’s account tells us that even after witnessing Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000+ with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, their hearts were hardened. They didn’t recognize Jesus on the water, because they didn’t recognize Him as God. We too may be so focused on the winds, on our struggle, on our own efforts, that we don’t recognize Jesus in the storm. Jesus promised us that He would never leave us. Ask Him to give you eyes to recognize Him. To believe that He is able to help. To recognize His aid may come in a totally unexpected way.

We can find comfort in Jesus’ words, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” The disciples had to wait for Jesus physical presence. But now He is always with us. He promises to be there with us in the struggle. The wind of trouble may not die down immediately like it did for the disciples, but we know Jesus will be there in the boat with us. When the waves appear to swamp our boat, we know that Christ is still in control.  

When you feel like you’re straining against the wind, wait for the answer. Recognize it may come in an unexpected way. Remember Jesus is in the boat with you.

Where to look when you feel like you're straining against the oars.

 

original photo source

Where To Take Your Complaints

Knowing where to take your complaints is the difference between frustration and peace.

It all started with a box of dishwasher detergent. We bought a new box of the stuff and soon began noticing a change in our dishes. I grumbled to my husband that our brightly colored plastic tumblers were no longer brightly colored. Instead they looked like the surface had been etched. I thought perhaps the formula of the offending detergent was too high in abrasives.

I called the company to complain, hoping that I would not only get my money back for the offending detergent, but also for my ruined glasses. (Never mind that these plastic tumblers were almost twenty years old. It was the principle of the thing.)

The pleasant customer service representative asked that I send a sample of the detergent to the manufacturer along with some of the tumblers. I was certain that the company would acknowledge the problem and send us money to buy new glasses. However, what we received back in the mail was our own cardboard box with the old tumblers in them. Only now they were as vivid as before the problem detergent. Inside the box was an explanation that the company had not found the tumblers to be scratched, merely coated with a soap scum. They had soaked the dishes in a mildly acidic solution and the gray film was now removed. I felt a little silly for complaining about soap scum, but I was glad to have the problem solved even if I didn’t get my twenty-year-old tumblers replaced for free.

Simply griping about the lousy new dish detergent to my husband did nothing to fix the problem. But complaining to the manufacturer did. I needed to take my complaints to the right person.

King David knew this as well. He wrote in Psalm 142:

With my voice I cry out to the LORD;

with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.

I pour out my complaint before him;

I tell my trouble before him. (v. 1-2)

“Now wait a minute!” I can hear you say. “King David, a man after God’s own heart, was complaining? I thought Christians weren’t supposed to grumble!

 Here’s what I think. God is definitely displeased when we complain about our lives “behind His back,” effectively displaying displeasure with His provision and grace. But if we come to Him directly and pour out our concerns honestly, He can reassure us of His love and goodness.

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira writes in her book, Grumble Hallelujah,

 “Grieving, shedding tears, emptying ourselves of hurt seems to clear up room for God to work.” 

When I feel like complaining, I now try to go straight to the Manufacturer. I “pour out my complaint before the Lord.” I lay out all my feelings, my gripes, my sadness.

But I do it with the knowledge that God can do something about it. He can change the situation, fix the problem, or simply comfort my soul. Pouring out my complaint makes room for God’s consolation and reassurance.

Look at the end of Psalm 142:

Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! (v. 7)

Being a chronic complainer can leave you in a prison of discontent. But pouring out your complaints before God with the expectation that He is going to do something wonderful frees your spirit.

So take your complaints straight to the Manufacturer and watch Him work!

Question: What do you do when you feel like complaining?

 This article was adapted from my book, Bless These Lips. Bless These Lips

3 Positive Side-Effects of Giving Up Grumbling

SIDE-EFFECTS

Complaining seems to be a national pastime. We moan when the weather is lousy. We grumble about traffic. We gripe about disappointments.

Why do we do this?

Maybe it’s because complaining garners sympathy. Maybe it’s because it feels good to get something off your chest. Maybe it’s because it’s easy conversation–usually everyone else joins in with their own gripes.

Maybe it’s because you’re like me and you think: If I don’t complain, what will I talk about?

But even though it’s easy to grumble, we all know we should give it up.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Do everything without complaining or arguing.

Philippians 2:14

That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? God commands us to do everything without grumbling.

Gulp.

Fortunately, for those of us who need a little extra incentive, Paul tells us there are positive side-effects to ending our griping sessions. Look at the next verse in Philippians:

“So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” Philippians 2:15

Paul told the Philippians that there are three positive side-effects to giving up griping:

  1. We will become blameless and pure. Blameless means without fault. When we give up complaining, our lives will not be open to criticism. Pure means our lives will not be a mixture of good and evil. When I use my imagination to see myself through God’s eyes when I’m complaining, I see someone given who has been given the greatest gifts of salvation and life forever in heaven and still complains about the weather. A mixture of good and evil. Without my constant griping, my life is a better reflection of Christ’s purity.
  2. We will be children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation. When we’re complaining we look just like everyone else. If give up our griping we will stand out in a society without faith, without hope. People will recognize we have something special. A friend of mine who became a Christian as an adult said that before she knew Jesus, she didn’t see any benefits to becoming a Christian. She thought Christianity was just following a bunch of rules. She saw that Christians still had problems. She couldn’t figure out why someone would subject themselves to all those rules if they didn’t get any benefits. When things don’t go our way, we have an opportunity to show non-Christians the benefits of being a child of God. Even though we have problems, we also have a Father who goes through them with us. Do our lives demonstrate that truth when we are complaining?
  3. We will shine like stars in the universe. Without complaining, our light will shine brighter, we will be more able to point people to the Light of the world. Complaining will only dim our brightness.

When we abandon the habit of complaining every time something irritates us or someone disappoints us, we can shine a light on the One who is more than willing to give us the grace to face every trial. When we give up grumbling, we exhibit trust in the God who will hold our hand through every rainy day, every bump in the road, every painful disappointment.

 give up grumbling

 

Make Over Your Schedule: 3 Steps to Putting Your Time in God’s Hands

God is ready to craft something beautiful out of my moments. But first I need to put my time in His hands.

Last summer I joined a new study group. During the season we talked about what God was doing in our lives and where He was leading us to do new things for Him.

One night our leader talked about how she truly felt that God had called her to work with the group, but a change in her family situation now had her wondering how she was going to get everything done. She said that she was feeling overwhelmed. But she had come up with a new plan.

She was going to set aside one evening a week to work on details involved with leadership. She would begin with a half hour to pray about the group and ask God for guidance. She would then spend another hour and a half with the planning duties and emails that were necessary. At the end of that hour and a half she would call it a night and trust that whatever didn’t get done could wait or would be done by someone else.

Don’t you love it? What a great plan!

My leader’s plan reminded me of one my favorite Bible verses:

But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
 My times are in your hand

Psalm 31:14-15a

Most of my scheduling problems–my overcrowded calendar, my panic in wondering how I will ever get everything done–are usually caused because I have taken time in my own hands.

But God keeps reminding me that I can trust Him. He is ready to take my days, my hours, my minutes and craft them into something beautiful. Something valuable. Something extraordinary.

But first I have to give them to Him. I need to put my times into His hands.

So now I am starting my day with my leader’s plan:

  1. Pray. Ask God to give me the wisdom to know what to work on today.
  2. Work. Accomplish the tasks that God has pointed out.
  3. Trust. Believe that what still needs to be done can be worked on tomorrow.

My times are in God’s hands.

Question: How do you start your workday?

Psalm 31-14-15a