obedience

What to do with discouragement

I’ve been increasingly discouraged over the past two months or so, with a few different factors building over that time.

When this time first started, I said that the events happening weren’t in my control; all I could do was continue to be obedient and trust God.

To be honest, I think I’ve kinda forgot about that over the past month.

I’ve allowed a combination of circumstances to drag me down, and forgotten that it’s still my job to just keep praying and being obedient. Being glum doesn’t help anyone.

I have a few friends who really encouraged me on Monday night, and that really helped jump-start me again.

They reminded me that expectations don’t matter, but joyful obedience does.

It reminds me of one of the last things Jesus said to Peter:

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.

John 21:21-22 NIV (emphasis mine)

LIES I NEVER KNEW ABOUT ME

God's been teaching me lessons in doubt and effectiveness.

Photo by Jenna Machum, sourced from CreationSwap.com.

I was shocked when God used me last week.

Here’s why.

Last week’s post was, in my opinion, not that great. I wasn’t entirely sure what I didn’t like about it, but it annoyed me that I couldn’t find a theme verse to talk about what I’d learned that week.

Still, I wrote down what I’d learned and shot it off to cyberspace, praying for the best. Then I went away for the weekend.

During my weekend, some terrific stuff happened. I’m involved with a group called Project X, and we do youth outreaches in outback towns. The next event is happening in Roma in September, so we headed out there to do some groundwork.

The whole weekend was full of prayer, and for the first time in a good long while I felt like my presence mattered. Usually at things like this, I think, “If I wasn’t here, someone else could easily replace me. What I’m doing isn’t very vital to God’s kingdom.” My mission trip to India in 2012 was another example. It wasn’t till the end of the trip, when a few teammates told me specific ways I’d helped them, that I realized I brought something to the table.

But this weekend, I felt like God was saying, “You’re right, anybody could do this. I can give anyone the ability to do anything; it’s all from Me anyway. What’s important is that you are here. You have been obedient. And that pleases Me.”

It’s an entirely different thought process, and one I’m loving so far.

During the weekend we also discussed the role of the church and effectiveness in serving God. Those are all issues that have bothered me. I usually feel very ineffective in anything I do with God.

This is how the thought process worked: Yeah, I do some God-stuff, but none of it ever seems to work. I was a youth leader, but some of those kids backslid. We saw heaps of conversions in India, but that was probably all the hype of the event. My church is growing, but I’m only a tiny part of that. And I write a blog, but how much of an effect can a blog post really have on someone?

This sound silly to you yet? For the first time, it does to me too.

When I got home I saw my blog stats for the weekend. I try to not put too much stock in statistics (though I check them every day, so maybe I’m not doing so great at that …) but when I checked them this time I was floored. They were way higher than usual!

And even better than that, was the feedback that started popping up. A Facebook comment here, a Tumblr share there, and a really encouraging email from a lady I haven’t seen in years. They all had a similar theme:

This helped me. Thanks for your honesty. Don’t let discouragement get you down!

To every person who commented, shared or visited this blog, thanks. It was a big encouragement.

It all sparked a new thought: Maybe God CAN use my writing.

That was the first time I realized that I didn’t believe God could. The doubt had always been far more subtle than a conscious thought.

I write because I like it, and God has given me the gift, so I figure He wants me to use it. But a piece of doubt has been lodged in my brain all this time, telling me that writing is just something I enjoy, nothing more. It has no real value to God. After all, how much can a blog or a book really pull someone closer to God?

After getting such a boost of encouragement last week, I thought to myself, Maybe my decision to write isn’t just a selfish thing. Maybe God can use it, and He wants me to invest this time and effort into it. Maybe He has a plan to use it, whether it’s in a big or a small way.

Had you asked me last week if God wanted me to write, I would have said yes. But the doubt, wedged in my brain, would have poked me and whispered, “Selfish. Ineffective. Waste of time and money.”

And while I never would’ve thought those words consciously, I’d have felt their cold shadow pass over my soul.

But what does that doubt say about God? Do I really not believe that He’s powerful enough to use my writing? Last week was a great example that He can use whatever He wants. I wasn’t even happy with that post I wrote, yet it’s attracted the most encouraging response of anything I’ve done so far. It’s obviously not my mind-blowing genius accomplishing anything here. No, it’s God saying, “I can use the strong and the weak. The good blog posts and the not-as-good-as-you-wanted-it-to-be ones.”

This week’s been a big one. I have a whole attitude to change. I’m going to outline it, so that I can recall it easily next week when I begin to forget.

  1. Who am I to question where God asks me to work? As long as I’m obedient, it doesn’t matter if I’m not converting the millions of people I expected to be. I am working where God placed me. I cannot do any better than that.
  2. It doesn’t matter if I’m replaceable, or quiet, or freakishly brilliant, or anything. What matters is that I go where God says. I participate. Again, I’m obedient.
  3. Doubt can be so very, very subtle. And so very, very hurtful. Please God, keep showing me these splinters of doubt and tweezing all of them out!

 

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?

Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

 “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

 

 2 John 1:6 NIV

God’s Not Disappointed With Me

Photo by Ramzi Hashisho, sourced from freeimages.com.

Photo by Ramzi Hashisho, sourced from freeimages.com.

Do you know, I felt a little weird writing that title?

That’s how ingrained the thought process is in my head. And up until last week, I didn’t realize it.

Lately I’ve posted about what God’s teaching me in the areas of stressjoy and my theory that just because you feel something, doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

A big part of combating stress and seizing joy has been sniffing out the lies in my head and replacing them with God’s truth.

I already knew there were triggers that made me feel blah. The big ones were:

  • A feeling that God’s given me an amazing life and opportunities and I’m not giving enough back.
  • Stress that I’m making the wrong decision (not wrong as in sinful, just wrong as in ‘this other one would work better’).
  • Worry about money/career/future/house, etc.

The first two things on this list especially contributed to a general feeling that God wasn’t happy with my efforts, but I didn’t know how to fix it. A feeling that He was disappointed.

Since I decided to stop stressing and instead actively pursue joy and peace, I’ve been on the lookout for this yucky feeling. It’s been an eye-opener—not even I realized how often it was getting me down. It was all the time! But I’ve found some important truths to fight it:

  • Yes, God has given me an amazing life. But I have been on the lookout for opportunities to join Him in His work. I’ve been obedient, I’ve been faithful. I’ve taken action when the chance arose. And I’m asking for His help to further improve. The only reason I think I’m not giving enough back, is because I can’t see churches full of people I’ve converted.  But last week I posted about how God doesn’t measure success by numbers. What matters is faithfulness, so if I’m faithful, I’m all good.

You worry every time you must take a turn. You often freeze up and cannot make a decision.

  Yep, that’s totally me. You know what Henry Blackaby was describing here? People who don’t trust God to lead them one step at a time.

  It’s a common pattern throughout the Bible—God often called people to action, but only gave them one piece of the puzzle at a time. If I trust        Him and make sure I’m obedient one day at a time, then each day I know I’m right where He wants me.

  • Worry about the future is basically a lack of trust in God—something I’m very aware of, have posted about before and am dealing with.

And just like that, the foreboding feeling that I’m a disappointment to God is disappearing. It’s being replaced with a desire for more of God, and the knowledge that if I’m listening and obedient one day at a time, I’m okay.

Actually, I’m more than okay. 🙂

Can you relate to my story? How has God addressed your fears or worries? Comment below!

 

 

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