When will I ever learn? I have a whole bin full of half finished blogs and articles. The same thing happens every time I start writing on one specific topic. Every time. I get halfway through then I become inextricably tangled up in my thoughts and my words and I become stuck in the mire and simply shut down. When will I learn to stay away from the ideas that lead to this complex unexplored territory?
What is this territory, you may be thinking, but I dare not say it now, in the shadow and dread of being stumped...yet again! So rather than set my mind to circular thinking that tarnishes the soul and bruises the emotions, I will embark on a new line of healthy thoughts.
There are scriptures that coincide with this exact need I have, to get my mind right.
2 Corinthins 10:5, reminds me, "...We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One." (TPT). I love how pointed and direct that is. The human mind, will and emotions need to be trained. The easiest thing is to let them wander where they will, but it is in our own best interest to corral them into submission, to "make them bow in obedience". If I'm not careful, my mind gets stuck in a swirl of anxiety and I find it really difficult (nearly impossible) to pull out of it.
Philippians 4, verses 8 and 9 has been a scripture I memorized as a youngster. At night, in my room, all by myself, the wooden floors of our drafty old house would creek and crack and I often had trouble with my imagination getting the better of me. My mom gave me this verse to use as ammunition for moments of uncertainty. The Passion Translation states it especially clearly:
"So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising Him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things."
This passage is really a training manual for the troubled mind. When I find myself thinking about trouble at work or financial pressures or things I've lost, I stop and remind my self, "No, think on THESE things!" Yes, all the good stuff. Not the worries, not the bad news, not the fears. Just the good stuff.
And there is plenty of good stuff. I have so much to be thankful for. So I start to count them.
food (right at the top, lol)
a roof over my head
friends, some who have walked through fire with me
God has been faithful and so very very good
The list continues on and on. He knows right where I am. He will never leave me. He will never cheat me or hurt me or turn His back on me. He is that friend who sticks closer than a brother. So I fasten my thoughts and my every hope to the goodness of God. All of a sudden the fears that seemed to shout before, are now quieted. I can truly rest on a cushion of His grace. Yes, rest. Trust. Breathe. Know.
I am loved and He's got this. He's got me.
How about you? Feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear some other strategies you have used to pull yourself out of a difficult spiral downward, or better yet, to keep yourself out of that spiral altogether.
I admit it. In the past, I have hoped too much. For too long. Or possibly, placed my hope in the wrong things. I'm still not really sure. I feel like I staked my life on a hope that was dashed upon the rocks of a very harsh and unkind reality that stole everything. My dreams for my family, my community, and my calling were all snatched away in the span of one day.
Finding a reason to hope has never been my problem. I am hopeful to a fault. It is perhaps this hope within me that kept me going, kept all the plates spinning and caused me to refuse to give up.
I spent every Saturday night for many years, opening up the church, leading others, and leading myself to a place of consecration, surrender, to adoration and thanksgiving at the foot of the cross. Literally, I would lie down on the stage at the cross and pour out my heart and all my hopes to Jesus, trusting that somehow, "... in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 (NIV)
I'd check my heart to make sure I fit the criteria. I am called, check. I am doing His purposes, check. I love Him, check. He works all things, check. All things together for good... ok Lord, I'm holding on to that one, in belief and faith that you will do it.
I would pray for my children, my church, my friends, my family, and my husband. I thought my tenacity was a good thing. I thought He would come through. I really thought He would turn things around for good. I was looking for it, hanging onto that hope.
But it didn't go the way I thought it would.
In a few days it will have been 2 years since I lost everything. A lot has changed since that day. I haven't learned how to dream yet, but I am learning to hope again.
In my year at school at Bethel, Kris Vallotton used to always say, all things work together for good in the end, so if it's not good yet, it's not the end.
As much as I have wanted it to be the end over the last 2 years, it hasn't been. My life has not come to an end. So if I'm still here and God isn't letting me end, it must mean that He has a purpose in my existence, that He can make something out of my mess, and that alone is reason to hope. I can feel it slowly rising.
At times I have wondered why it is such a slow process. (Moses and the children of Israel must've thought the same thing, I mean 40 years is a long time!) It only took Jesus 3 days, but He's the very Son of God so I figure I should adjust my expectations, but resurrection for me has been an agonizingly slow and painful process. I don't want it to take any longer than absolutely necessary.
I am beginning to understand that my ability to rise from the ashes is a choice, not a natural accident. God won't do it for me. Life certainly won't do it for me, in fact the natural forces of this world will do quite the opposite to keep me in my place. I must refuse to stay there. Refuse hopelessness. Refuse to let loss frame my life or tell my story.
I will dream again. I will live again. I will hope again.
You don't have to have it all figured out, just start where you are.
I can't even count the many times I have spoken these very words to people; to those who felt stuck, those who lacked direction, and those who were desperate for a new beginning. People always want to know what to do next, especially when they feel like they are climbing out of a pit.
But what I've discovered is that when you rely on Jesus, when you put your trust in Him, He pulls you all the way out of the pit not just halfway. You never have to climb out by yourself. You no longer cling to the edge with your face in the dirt, clawing the mud that drips from the slippery fringes of the pit. No. In one swift motion, He reaches in and with His strong arms, He lifts you completely out and plants your feet on the solid ground.
When you lift your head and look around, it's important to know where you stand. (Don't let the new surroundings confuse you!) You have become free of all the filth, disentangled from the muck and mire and you stand clean. You are pure. You stand in the light, pardoned and unrestrained. It's that fast, it's that simple.
We sing the same song that has been sung through the ages, often without thinking, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." Thank you God, for seeing me, for waiting patiently for me, for reaching in and saving me! I would've never been able to pull myself out, of that I am certain. I'd be scraping and scratching forever at the hope of being free. I stand in gratitude and in total reliance upon Jesus for my next move.
But don't you know, that became my biggest problem.
What is my next move?
And that is where I got stuck.
I felt totally alone. I wondered, "Where did He go? Why did He walk away?" And then suddenly I couldn't remember anything. Just like that, my brain turned to mush.
Where did my mind go? Things that happened before the pit, people I knew, precious words that He had told me, everything seemed covered in a thick cloud. Thoughts flitted through my mind, refusing to be captured. I couldn't rest on any of them. Names, dates, places, all a distant blur.
How to get it back. How to recall. How to understand. How to overcome. How to get a vision. How to see beyond the ugliness and pain of the trauma of losing everything. I kept gazing at the pit I had left behind. My spirit shouted, "Turn around! Turn around!" But it was like a train wreck! Ya just gotta stare!
How to find restoration. How to feel again. How to turn around. How to move forward.
Even now, as I slowly move out of the fog, I am understanding that when He reached into that pit and pulled me out, He didn't put me on the same side as I had been before, He set me down on the furthest edge away from where I had fallen in. That meant nothing felt the same or looked the same. My expectations of people's responses, my knowledge of where to step next, my understanding of where I was headed was all wrong! I had to put my trust and my confidence in Him and Him alone.
Is that what God has wanted all along? For all my hope to be placed on His shoulders, for all my resources to be waiting upon His vast goodness, for me to hang upon every word He says? Has He been waiting for me to put my hope in Him?
In Isaiah 43 God was talking to the prophet about the great things He had done in the past and in verses 18 and 19 He says, "Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert." (AMP)
I am learning that I can't simply close my eyes and wish to be in a different spot and I won't get where I am going by dwelling on the past. Forgetting about what is behind is not something that just accidentally happens along the way. Putting the past in it's place is a conscious decision. Where He is leading is not even a landscape I could've conceived of. God has not picked me up and set me directly into a new place, if He did, I know I would miss out on all the joys and victories of walking together into this land of victory with Him.
I don't have a map. I only have one strategy. I have to get there step by step, by following the sound of His voice and hanging on every word He says. Gradually the terrain changes and the clouds part. I know that one day soon, I will see again. And it will be lovely.
How about you? What are some practical ways you follow Him?