peace

How to Stop Feeling Guilty about not Working Hard Enough

Copyright Creationswap, image by Bogdan Kulyk.

Copyright Creationswap, image by Bogdan Kulyk.

If anyone wrote a book about my life, it would probably have the above title.

I have struggled with guilt my whole life, and a lot of it comes from the following mental gymnastics:

I imagine if I was an angel, looking at humans from heaven, I’d be like, “They have so much opportunity! Why don’t those comfortable people help those suffering people more? I would be a much better human then them.” (A friend pointed out to me the other day that this is a very judgmental angel. 🙂 )

I feel like a big part of the world’s problem is that the fortunate don’t help the unfortunate, and I don’t want to be like that. But then I’m always afraid that I’m not doing enough.

I mirrored this problem in my novel, Hating Jeremy Walters, where my main character, Natalie, always feels like she’s not working hard enough. The only difference is that she feels she must work hard to please God; I feel I must do lots of good stuff to prove I’m not selfish. But we’re pretty similar.

But I keep having a problem with Natalie. I know her thought patterns are wrong, but when I write out both sides of the argument she can always argue her wrong side better than my ‘good’ character can argue his right side.

I know my guilty way of thinking isn’t right, but to me, it just seems so logical.

This week God gave me an insight that probably seems totally obvious to everyone else—but for me it had to come from an imaginary conversation between two book characters.

This is a rough scene from the first draft of my book, where Natalie’s boyfriend, Jeremy, is asking her to cut back on her insane workload for the sake of children in her care. (Please don’t judge me on my dialogue; this is the roughest of the rough drafts!)

“Can’t you see that there’s different ways of pleasing God? Working like a crazy person is not one of them.” Jeremy ran his fingers through his hair and pulled, like he literally wanted to tear his hair out.

“You’re just saying that because you want me home more. I can’t give it up. That would be giving up on pleasing God. I couldn’t live with the guilt.”

“Why do you talk about all this guilt? You’re forgiven. Have you forgotten what that word means?”

“It doesn’t mean that I just live a selfish life for myself after I’m saved.”

Every time I thought about a different version of this conversation, this is where it ended. The “But I can’t be selfish/lazy!” line was the trump card. Jeremy’s comebacks never seemed convincing enough.

One day I ran the conversation through my head again, and when it got to this point, Jeremy got so frustrated that he stood up and yelled,

“But you refuse to admit there is a middle ground!”

And I stopped and thought, What? Then I projected myself into Natalie again.

“What?”

“You say that you can’t be lazy or selfish. But ‘not overworking’ doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It’s not one extreme or the other.”

“But I—”

“You also refuse to see that a striving spirit doesn’t bring God any glory. Actually, I think that de-prioritising relationships and justifying yourself through work is just as bad—or worse—than laziness.”

Natalie paused. Worse than laziness? Apart from the obvious things like murder, nothing was worse than laziness. But a comeback for Jem eluded her.

Yes! I finally shut her up!

Natalie still has some tough lessons to learn through the book, but at least I can finally figure out the ‘good’ side of the argument.

Yes, God doesn’t want us to be lazy. But neither does he want us to be striving, burned-out, duty-bound people who have no fun. That brings him zero glory, and we get really tempted to feel like our work justifies us instead of his grace.

I find it hard to walk the middle ground, and even when I strike the right balance I feel like it’s not enough. But I guess that’s why God gave us his Holy Spirit, to help point me the right way again.

It just makes me laugh when he uses imaginary characters to do it.

Can anyone else relate? What’s been an unusual light bulb moment for you? How do you deal with workaholism or guilt?

Join the conversation below!

 

 

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NO MINISTRY, NO CAREER, NO MAN. GREAT PLAN? PART III

Image sourced from CreationSwap.com, made by Mark Lauman.

Image sourced from CreationSwap.com, made by Mark Lauman.

A miracle happened today.

After finally starting my new part-time job in retail (in addition to my existing part-time gig at the boarding school) I got a phone call about another job. Another big decision. (That’s not the miracle. Wait for it.)

My last big job decision led to the contentment crisis I wrote about in Part I and Part II. It involved weeks of nail-biting stress and fear of making the wrong decision. It even triggered a hissy fit about cheese.

Today I hung up from the phone call which could lead to another major decision and waited for the sky to fall in. I was about to hit the panic button and ring Mum when I paused and prayed.

Then I waited. And all was calm.

MIRACLE!

What? Calm? After the soap opera-worthy drama that raged in my head last time? Yep. So far it’s been a whole hour, and I’m still doing pretty good.

What changed?

It wasn’t simply the fact that I prayed. I prayed last time. I prayed like I was drowning and using my last breath to squeal at God. I prayed with desperation, begging for guidance and not really expecting to get it. I prayed without faith.

God has since pointed out to me my shocking lack of faith. Really, you’d think I’d get it by now. Not only do I have numerous examples from my own life when God’s been trustworthy, there’s also a bazillion examples in the Bible of faith and faithlessness. Remember what happened to the faithless Israelites? Forty years of wandering! Yikes. But what happened when Peter had faith? He walked on FREAKING WATER!

So I’ve been praying for faith and wisdom this week. God’s also pointed out to me (again) these verses from Philippians 4:

 

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.

Philippians 4:6-7

So this time, when I prayed, I didn’t whine, groan or gasp. (Although for some prayers, that’s fine.) This time I surprised myself when I realized that I’m confident God will give me the resources I need to be content, whichever path I take, and that He will guide me when it’s the right time.

This confidence totally isn’t from me. Just ask my sister who listened to my complaints about cheese.

I think it’s safe to say that God’s holding up his end of the bargain with this whole ‘prayer=peace’ thing.

In my experience, peace and fear are major factors in contentment and discontentment. Even when I’m not making decisions about my job, I’m often plagued by fear that I’m missing opportunities. When I’m 40, will I regret not going overseas to work for a year like lots of people my age are doing? Even though I don’t want to do that, fear still hounds me that one day I’ll regret staying in Australia. My writing is another thing. Most writers are 50+ years old for a reason. Am I making a poor life decision by pursuing my novels now?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a new prayer God had given me.

“Thank-you for where I am, because it’s where You want me to be, God. And that’s more important than my own plan.”

It’s my motto for contentment. And it’s still holding true. I don’t need to worry about the ‘what-ifs’ because I’m following God. That’s all that matters.

Now I’m adding my new way of praying to that. Prayer with confidence. A conversation with God that’s still honest about my feelings, but contains faith that God hasn’t deserted me and knows what is best.

Who knows? Maybe next week I’ll walk on a puddle.

 

How about you? What’s the tone of your prayers? Have you experienced a link between faith and contentment in your own life?

Contribute to the conversation below!

 

 

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I Don’t Get the Point of This, God

I don’t understand the direction my life is going.

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com, by KellyB. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com, by KellyB. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

I don’t want to sound like a whiner, but…I’m about to.

My job is not a career, my writing will take forever to become a career, I can’t see God working through me and things just aren’t turning out the way I expected. It drives me crazy that I can’t see which way I’m going.

I’m the kind of person who likes to set goals, then work hard to achieve them. I hate drifting, I hate aimlessness and I hate waiting without knowing what’s going on. I guess ticking goals off my list makes me feel in control and successful.

So this time of my life—while I love many parts of it—is sending me bonkers.

But as I studied the Book of Luke yesterday I got a bucket of cold water thrown over my soul.

As I read through Chapters 7-9 I took note of patterns in what Jesus said and did. And I found one theme coming  out stronger than all the others: faith.

©CreationSwap/Tonya Christner

©CreationSwap/Tonya Christner

Jesus praised the faith of the centurion, the sinful woman and the bleeding woman. All three trusted Him when they were in desperate circumstances. Jesus also taught people to have faith through the Parable of the Sower, and he told Jairus to have faith when he raised his daughter from the dead. And when the disciples freaked out at a deadly storm, he questioned why they didn’t have more faith!

Let me tell you, if I was in that boat I would have been screaming my lungs out along with Peter.

As I read, I remembered how the nation of Israel had to wander the desert for 40 years because they didn’t have enough faith to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). And how Jesus later showed Peter that he could even walk on water if he had faith (Matt 14:22-33). I thought to myself, “Wow, where is my faith?”

If Peter can walk on water, I can choose to trust that God knows what He’s doing with my life, even if I don’t. I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to be able to see where my life is going. I just need to have faith.

I have to admit, up until yesterday I didn’t grasp how much of a big deal this was to God. Faith isn’t just a nice little Sunday School lesson we learn alongside, ‘Play nice’, and ‘Don’t hog all the cake’.

Going by the amount of times Jesus mentioned faith, the pivotal role faith played in Israel’s history and 1 Corinthians 13:13, I’d say that from God’s perspective, faith is the second most important thing in our lives.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Love is obviously number one; Jesus was pretty big on the whole, “Love God with all your heart” thing. But I’m pretty confident that faith is number two. (Okay, so maybe it ties for second place along with obedience, but you get the idea.)

This is a big deal. And I have been totally content to do nothing about it. I don’t want to miss out on a Promised Land and wander the desert because I refused to believe.

So I prayed, asking for God’s help. And as I prayed I realized how silly I had been. God was powerful enough to design DNA; I’m pretty sure He can handle my life.

So thank-you for your help God, and please remind me of this when I start to worry in the future.

What about you? What trigger points are in your life that cause you to lose faith? How do you combat them?

 

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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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Brand New Day!

Welcome to the new and improved site, everybody!

Along with the new-look website, I am making a few changes. I will now post regularly on a Friday, (and occasionally throughout the week), and I will regularly update my ‘recommendations’ page.  Keep an eye out for some great books and websites!

Today I have a guest post up over at Jennifer Slattery’s blog; check it out and join the conversation here.

Jennifer Slattery

Here’s a taster:

“I don’t believe Your timing is right.”

“I don’t believe You can accomplish Your purposes through my life and writing.”

“I don’t think You can reach the hearts that are ready for You.”

“I don’t think You can take care of my financial needs.”

Have you ever caught yourself saying this to God?

Probably not. Few people say these things out loud, or even in their heads. But the other day I realized that I was saying all that to God through my actions….

 

You’ll have to visit Jennifer’s site to see the rest!

I Have Been Missing Out

Do you wait for joy and peace to hit you in the head?

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com by familymwr, used under licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com by familymwr, used under licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

I did. And I wish I hadn’t wasted years doing so.

I used to wait around for those feelings to magically appear, slogging through life until they did. When they came, I was happy. When they left, I fretted and stewed until they floated my way again. It never clicked that I could skip the stressing stage and chase after them.

Now I know that I have to ask God to help me change. I have to recognize my worries as a lack of trust in God and decide to put my faith in Him. It’s taking time, but it’s working! I wish I’d done it long ago.

Same with my relationship with God. Sometimes I’d feel really close to Him, but usually I wouldn’t. That didn’t bother me too much; I knew that emotions were fickle and not to be trusted. And it’s not like I paid no attention to God; I’ve always taken Him seriously and had a devotion time pretty much every day. But there would still be times when I coasted along, and times when I really dug in, chasing after God.

I’m lucky to now be part of a group that meets weekly, not for a routine Bible study, but to chase after God. We pray and sing and talk, and while I’ve been doing those things my whole life, there’s something special this time. We’re all meeting together because we want to seek God. We want to drive in closer to Him. We want to chase after Him. And He’s happily letting us catch Him.

Does this mean all things are easy? Most certainly not. We’ve all got stuff going on in our lives. But as I go after God more and more—with my friends and individually—I’m discovering again how I only ever really find myself in Him.

I think often people are afraid they’ll lose their individuality and become another zombie robot Christian, doing only God’s work and none of the things they’re interested in. But in reality, it’s the opposite. I’m only really finding myself, my purpose, my joy, my creativity and my individuality in God. On my own, I’m another zombie robot Millennial, busy with my family and job and hobbies. But the more I get to know God, the more I feel like there’s a whole other dimension out there that I’ve been blind to, and it’s so much more important than the things I’ve been focusing on. Wouldn’t it be sad to get to the end of your life and realise you’ve totally missed the point of it?

I’m starting to think that I need to passionately pursue God, even when I don’t feel passionate about Him. I always thought I was okay because I spent time with Him and obeyed Him. And I was okay—but I wasn’t great. Even though I was chugging along, I wasn’t chasing after more. I never prayed, “God, give me more of you.” But now I see that this Holy Relationship is like a marriage—even the happiest married couples never stop learning about each other. And the further you go, the greater the relationship is.

The leader of the group I attend often starts the meetings off by praying, “God give me more of You. I need more of You.” The first time I heard that I thought, “Huh. I don’t think I’ve said that before.” I was a bit surprised, because I’ve always considered myself quite serious about God.

As I kept coming along to the group (we’re called Project X—check out the website here) I’ve seen this example lived out in the lives of my friends. I’m seeing that I want to chase after God too. I’m not content with what I have of Him; I need more. Even though I already knew my purpose was wrapped up in God, now I’m understanding it. How can we get distracted with the world when, at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter? And yet it happens so easily.

The more I know God, the less willing I am to allow myself to get distracted. I want Him. I need Him. I want to join in His work in the world—I want to be part of the stuff that does matter.

Sometimes a new TV series will come out on DVD or I get good ideas for my book and I’ll be very distracted by the world for a few days… or weeks. But if I pray for God’s help in loving Him, He will come through. He will help me love Him. He’ll help me not get distracted, He’ll remind me to practise discipline, He’ll show me how mind-blowing He is and how meaningless everything else is.

And slowly, inch by inch, I’m transforming.

 

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

James 4:8 NIV

…Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 NIV (emphasis mine)