Fighting for Peace

I wrote last week about how I believe the best is yet to come. Wednesday, I spent a good part of the day journaling and talking to God about everything going on in my life these days. I already believed what I’d written the day before, but I reached an even deeper place of peace and assurance that God truly has incredible things in store.

And then Thursday came. The potential disappointment I’d mentioned in last week’s post suddenly seemed like more of a probability than a possibility; I didn’t handle the thought well. The peace I had just a few hours before seemed nonexistent, and I became a bit of an emotional wreck for the afternoon.

As I pulled out my journal once again, the first lines I wrote were: “It’s amazing how often one must fight for peace… It seems like an oxymoron, but it’s true.” I have no idea where those words came from, but they’ve had me thinking ever since. So many times I think of peace as the absence of struggle, but often it seems like a war within to stay in a place of peace.

Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He is our source of peace no matter what is happening in the world, but it can be a battle to remain connected to that source when it seems the world is falling apart around us.

Paul encouraged the Philippians (4:4-8), “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This is how we “fight” for peace. We take thoughts captive, every minute if necessary, and remind ourselves of truth. We rejoice always in Who our God is and the fact He is with us. We dwell in Him and fix our eyes on Him instead of on our circumstances. We present our needs and desires to Him and trust He will accomplish what concerns us, even if it isn’t in the way we expect.

I may have more emotional moments in the coming months as I wait to see what unfolds. But today, I’m in a place of peace. Tomorrow may bring a battle to stay there, but I know the weapons needed for the fight. I will rejoice in God and fix my thoughts on His truth, knowing wherever I am and whatever happens, the best is still ahead!

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Perspective

Perspective is an interesting thing. Charles R. Swindoll once said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” How we choose to see the situations we encounter can change our attitudes and actions like little else can.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I was having a difficult time. Some old lies had crept into my mind again, and I had let them take up residence for a few days. When this happens, I find that the best way for me to deal with them is to burn them. As a verbal processor, I have to get things out of my head, but I don’t want them in my journal or somewhere they can stick around forever. So I write them on loose sheets of paper and reach for the matches. (This is always done in a safe place with water on hand in case the blaze gets out of control.) Once the lies are gone, I invite God to come and replace them with His truth (which goes in my journal).

So this particular morning, after days spent fighting with the rubbish in my mind and heart, I finally got some paper and listed all the things my mind and heart had been believing that I knew to be false. The list was lengthy and covered a wide range of topics about me, about God, about others, and about promises I feel like God has given me for the future. I felt free as I watched the paper burn, and I looked forward to hearing what God would say to replace the junk.

The journal would have to wait though. Almost as soon as the fire was out, I had to leave for a ministry where I volunteer occasionally. Just as I was getting ready to walk out the door, I got a call from someone already at the ministry. She was calling to let me know a man was there looking for me. He was expressing an interest in giving me a gift, and she knew the situation would make me uncomfortable. I thanked her for the call and tried to figure out how to handle the situation that awaited.

As I walked, though, I couldn’t help but laugh. One of the lies I had burned just before the phone call was that I am undesirable and unlovable, that no man will ever choose me or even be interested in me. While I don’t believe God made this guy “like” me or would put me in that situation to prove a point, I could just imagine Him laughing to Himself anyway. That picture of God having a laugh changed my view of the situation. Allowing Him to bring truth – that I could be found attractive – in the most unlikely of ways gave me a new perspective and allowed me to laugh right along with Him.

What uncomfortable situation do you find yourself in today? How might your perspective need to change? How might God use it to speak to you if you allow Him?

For those who are wondering, I was delayed along the way, and the man left mere moments before I arrived!

Never Ending…

I have just finished two of my least favorite chores: washing clothes and cleaning the kitchen. I think the reason that I dislike them is that they are relentless. As I am writing this, I’m drinking a cup of tea, and an attempt at making peanut brittle is cooling in a pan in the kitchen… That means that, while I say I’ve just finished cleaning the kitchen, there are actually already three items to be washed again…

As I thought of the never ending cycle of washing (whether clothes or dishes), I realized how often that is the case with my thoughts too. I taught last month on finding identity and purpose, and a large portion of the lecture dealt with how we often have to take captive the same lies in order to walk in the truth of who (and Whose) we are.

The lies that keep us from the freedom to be ourselves are often lies about ourselves. Despite the fact that I teach others about finding their own identity and purpose, (and some think that means I’ve got my life all figured out), I still fight lies that I am insignificant or ‘less than.’ This fight isn’t constant, but there are days, or even seasons, where I am very nearly convinced that I am not worth notice and certainly not worthy of any of the things I believe God has promised.

The lies may also be about God. What better way for the Enemy to keep us from walking in the truth than to make us doubt the Source of all truth, the One Who is Truth itself? This was the original temptation in the Garden, and it has been tripping up all of humanity ever since. The lies may whisper to us that God is holding out on us, that He cares more about everyone else, that He is not faithful or worthy of our trust. Maybe they tell us that He doesn’t really understand what we’re going through, that He just doesn’t ‘get it’.

To me, that is the beauty of Christmas – or at least one of the many beautiful things about this season of celebration. God became one of us. Instead of holding out on us, He gave all He had. He stepped out of heaven, lived a life like yours or mine, and understands every ache, every longing, and every temptation. Emmanuel, ‘God with us,’ is the Truth that can put to rest every lie, not just about Himself, but about us too!

We have this wonderful season every year when we are reminded of just how far He came to be Emmanuel, but it is so easy to forget even with all of the reminders around us. We so often get busy with the events and shopping and whatever else the season brings, and forget to take time to remember why we are doing all of those things.

When we lose sight of the Truth of Emmanuel, the lies sneak in again to steal our joy and peace and hope and victory and all that Jesus came to bring. It seems like a never ending battle to keep the Truth in focus and take captive the thoughts that would bring doubt. I encourage you to take some time each day throughout the year to refocus on Jesus, God with us, and the freedom His truth brings… Maybe you can do that while you’re washing up after dinner! 🙂

 

Listening to the Right Words

I shared in a previous post that the word God gave me for this year was BIRTH. If you missed that post, you can find it here. The reason for mentioning that again is the realization I had a few weeks ago that all of my struggles so far this year have spoken a very different word in my ear…

I have had a number of times during the past seven months where I have felt as though I am a complete failure. I look back over fourteen years of full-time ministry, and see zero people I have personally led to Christ. I can recall multiple projects I worked on that I left unfinished. Some of those things were completed by other people; others are still lying on a shelf somewhere likely never to be seen again.

I tell myself that surely I have made a difference in the world. I must have contributed something during the course of my life, right?

I know in my head the answer to that question. I know all about the principle that some sow, and others water, and still others get to bring a harvest. Most of the time, I am very happy as the one who sows or waters. However, in a world driven by results, some days it is easy to feel like a failure with no tangible fruit to celebrate when I look back.

One day as I struggled through these feelings, it hit me. The word that was being whispered in my ear by all of these thoughts was “barren”. According to dictionary.com, barren is defined as fruitless and unproductive. How interesting that the feelings I struggled with during the first half of this year spoke a word to my heart that was in direct opposition to God’s word for me this year.

What struggles are you dealing with in your own life lately? What words are they speaking to your heart?

If you haven’t taken the time to identify the answers to those questions, maybe take some time today to think about them. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the struggles are speaking the exact opposite of what God wants to do in your life right now. Perhaps by recognizing one, you’ll find the other, and I can attest to the freedom of being able to speak God’s truth in place of the lies that come!

No matter what other voices may say, I know God is bringing new things into the world through me this year. I will walk in the truth of my verse for the year, Luke 1:45, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”