Thursday, September 17, 2009

Don't Lose Heart

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

Troubles and trials can really get us down. They can suck our focus away from everything else that is important. And, oh, do I know how that goes!

I know what it's like to get that bill in the mail, the one that says power will be shut off by such and such a date if not paid. I know what it's like to have rent due in just a few days, and the checkbook has a negative balance. I certainly wish I knew then what I know now. Because when I think about those times, when I think about those countless times I would spend an entire day fretting about the money situation... what good did it really do me? What good did it do me to sit and spend the entire day focused on that dollar amount, wondering where we were going to get the money? I can tell you with absolute certainty that it did me absolutely no good. In fact, I think it harmed me and the relationship I have with those around me. Those days, those times where I was so focused on where the money was going to come from, that I lost focus of what was important. I became short and irritated with the kids. I was distant when Andy would come home from work. The housework even slacked off, because I was spending time at the computer, trying to find a way to "get rich quick" or somehow rob Peter to pay Paul. But most importantly, I lost focus on God.

Oh, I was in communication with God all right. About every ten minutes or so, a prayer would emit from the top of my head. "Oh God, please make this work. Please fix this and help us to find the money somewhere." It was almost like a distress signal, ongoing and non-stop. In the midst of my distraction though, I wasn't spending time with Him like I should have. Jesus told us exactly what we should do when we are troubled and worried, but because I was so focused on our problems, I didn't listen to what he had to say.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

And what was Mary doing?

"She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said." Luke 10:39

If I had only taken the time to spend with the Lord, things would have been so much better. Who knows what kind of peace and comfort I could have found in the arms of The One who has so much to give me! All that time I spent focused on my troubles, all that wasted effort worrying and fretting, when I could have just bowed my head and focused on what was truly important instead.

"If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation." Psalm 91:9-16

God is the answer to all of our troubles! If we take the time to spend the time with him, who knows that answers he may show us in our quiet time. When we purpose to glorify and praise God first, our worries can simply melt away! I'm not necessarily talking about some miraculous solution. In the case of money, it could simply be an idea- I remember several years ago, with an old company, Andy spent a good deal of the summer unemployed. He was barely working- certainly not enough to pay our bills. We were two months and then some behind on our rent, and while we were so thankful for a patient and understanding landlord, we really needed to be able to pay him the back rent. I spent some time praying and talking to God about the situation, and a short while later I was going through my e-mail inbox and deleting old e-mails. Lo and behold I came upon a form to fill out that had been e-mailed to us to share with anyone who needed it. This form was basically a request for assistance for expenses. I printed it off, filled it out, and a few days later we were able to pay our landlord.

I have to confess, I also struggled with being able to pay our rent at that time. Here we had money, and while it was intended to pay bills, there was a big part of me that wanted to take a portion of it and go buy groceries and other things we needed. While I pondered that idea, that thought of only paying part of the back rent, the idea came to us to have a rummage sale. So we paid our rent, and then prepared and proceeded to have a rummage sale. That rummage sale more than paid for groceries and needed items. Looking back on it now, I can completely see God's intervention. I can see that he drew me to my e-mail inbox to find that form. And I can totally see how he dropped the idea of the rummage sale into our heads. God works like that! And when we give him a portion of our time, when we become like Mary and focus on Him, and hearing what He has to say, He loves on us and gives us those random ideas to help us through a situation.

I'm using the situation of money here because I think it's so common, and I think everyone goes through money woes at one time or another. But as I'm thinking about all these things, and writing them down, you could certainly insert any other trouble in its place. You could insert job woes, co-worker situations, family rifts, or a physical need that's causing stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are not tools of God! They are tools of the devil! And he loves it so much when we allow those troubles to cause us stress and anxiety. The more stress we allow, the more the devil sends our way, because he thrives in that kind of atmosphere. I can't help but think and wonder how much less stress and anxiety we would see in our communities today if we took an opposite approach. What it, upon the first sign of trouble, we headed to our knees in thanksgiving instead? What if, when you hear the news of being laid off, you fell to your knees and thanked God for the opportunity to do something new and exciting? What if we praised God for our troubles instead of letting them fester?

Once upon a time Andy's unemployment time was such a time of stress for us. Being in seasonal work, it's inevitable that every year he spends time collecting unemployment and doing odd jobs to try and make ends meet. But you know what happens when Andy isn't working? He is available for other things! He is home to spend time with the kids. He is home to help a friend who is doing a remodeling project. He is home to go put some time in on our church building, sprucing it up, or making repairs. As much as we don't like the financial pinch of that time, by golly, we are so thankful that he has the opportunities he has during that time off!

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. " 1 Peter 5:7

I realize that all this sounds good in theory, but in practice, is much harder to accomplish. But really, what have we all got to lose by not trying? We're already stressed out, losing heart, and full of anxiety, and our problems are still there! Let's make an effort to spend that time with Him, the one who cares for us! Let's cast our anxiety and worries on Him, and focus our efforts on praising and thanking Him. He may have the very answers we need to take our worries away. The next time you find yourself dwelling on a troublesome situation, getting angrier or more worried by the second, try turning to the one who cares for you! Walk straight to your CD player and put on some joyful praise music. Or go to Youtube and type in Praise and Worship music if you don't have any CD's. You will find plenty to choose from. Let the music wash over you and soothe you, and then spend some time talking to God, sharing your troubles with Him. He may very well answer you, but at the very least, you will find your strength renewed.

"He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40: 29-31

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