pressure

How God’s Broken Through My Walls

Copyright Creationswap, by  Joey Sforza.

Copyright Creationswap, by Joey Sforza.

This year has been all about learning about the character of God, and also about the character of me.

Everyone has thinking patterns and world views that need adjusting; the biggest one for me this year has been, “God’s disappointed in me because I’m not working hard enough”.

If you’ve read this blog regularly, you will have seen how God’s been chipping away at that over a number of months. Last week, when I was having a hard time, I had a conversation with a friend. She basically summed up a lot of the points that God’s been teaching me throughout the year.

So here they are, to share with all of you. These are my four favourite life lessons from 2014:

1. God will convict me if I need to change something, but never condemn me.

God isn’t about confusion or guilt. He won’t make me feel bad for the fun of it. If I need to change, He’ll show me, we’ll deal with it, and move on. If I feel paralysed by shame and have a vague notion of rejection, that’s not God.

2. God does not whisper quietly in the corner.

I stress a lot that I’m missing something that God’s trying to tell me. It’s one of the reasons why I find making decisions tricky. And if I were a person absorbed in my own life, not concerned about God, that could be true. But for someone who asks God to reveal His will, I shouldn’t have to stress that He will whisper what He wants in a corner and then watch me strain to hear it. He will tell me, and he will make it clear.

3. If I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve missed something…

then I should take ten minutes, sit down with God and say, “OK, I’m listening.” If nothing comes up, then I should stop stressing. I’m fine. If the stress is hard to shake, go back and read point 2. Then read point 4…

4. God literally loves me more than life itself.

And that’s it!

 

To all my lovely readers, thank-you for a year of support, comments, emails and other interactions. It’s wonderful to know we’re all in this together!

I’m taking the next two weeks off for Christmas, so have a wonderful holiday and I’ll see you all in 2015. 🙂

Why We Put Pressure On Ourselves

focused

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Dave Elledge.

In a world measured by statistics, how can I not judge my own worth and efforts in the same way?

This week I’ve been learning more about how to market my writing. Marketing has always been a problem for me, because:

  1. It’s hard;
  2. I get frustrated that it’s not happening quickly;
  3. I get frustrated that I cannot use brute force to make it happen faster, and;
  4. I fear that my work and efforts are not good enough, and therefore I am not good enough.

I’m particularly vulnerable when it comes to marketing, because it is totally a numbers game; statistics are the only way to measure if what I’m doing is effective.

Where I come unstuck, is when I equate ‘effective marketing technique’ to ‘being talented,’ and ‘being talented’ to ‘having significance’.

And it all starts with this voice in the back of my head, playing like a song on repeat.

phone

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Aaron Burden.

When I start to worry about the numbers, this voice says:

 “Doing my best and accepting God’s plan is not enough. I have to be as good as, or better than, everybody else.

“I have to be the best. Anything less is failure. Failure is unacceptable.

“Not only do I have to be the best; I have to be special. I have to be recognized.

“God’s approval on my life is not enough; I crave the approval of others.

“It doesn’t matter that this season of ‘rookie-ness’ is drawing my soul closer to God. I have to ‘make it’ by the standards I see in others, the media, and those I set myself.”

This voice is both quiet and loud. It’s quiet enough that I don’t recognize it for what it is. It’s quiet enough that I almost never question it. It’s quiet enough that I’m used to it being there.

But it’s loud enough to make me discontent and anxious. It’s loud enough that I believe my current efforts are not good enough. It’s loud enough that it sucks my joy and peace and energy.

But I have to recognize that measuring the effectiveness of my marketing strategy is very different to measuring my value as a writer, or as a person who lives to please God. In fact, the statistics are completely irrelevant as to whether I’m living a life that pleases God. Gaining my self-worth from statistics, instead of God, is actually displeasing to Him. And since the purpose of my life is pleasing God, this little numbers-obsessed voice has got to go.

The only way I can think to do that is to replace it with God’s voice, and focus on the truth.

“Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.”

Isaiah 55:2-3 NIV

“… 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,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

God, please help me recognize this voice when it starts to whisper lies to my mind. Please alert me to other negative messages just like it. And please help me to draw my self-worth, and my entire being, from You and You alone.

What about you? Is there an area in your life where you’re similarly vulnerable? Share in the conversation below!

I Am Here

Do you ever feel forgotten? Alone? Insignificant?

lonely child 5

Sitting in my office each day, typing out stories that no one has read yet, I do. And that adds pressure. I feel pressure to finish and get published as quickly as possible, so that all this effort will mean something. I want people to read my work and hopefully come closer to God. I want to accomplish His work and please Him.

And I’ll admit – though this doesn’t sound spiritual at all – I want to get paid. I love my part-time job and I feel like God is telling me to stay put and keep writing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about the financial implications.

It looks like getting published will solve all these problems. But the other night, God reminded me of the truth.

I AM HERE.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my post, ‘Waiting, Self-Doubt and Heroes’, I talked about people in the Bible who have had to wait – Abraham, Joseph, David and Jesus included. Yet while I recognized that waiting is normal, even an honor, I still felt like I needed to accomplish some ‘success’ before God would be pleased with me. I felt like He wasn’t with me in the waiting.

I should have known better. Actually, I did know better – in my head. Sometimes it takes a while longer to trickle down into my heart.

Almost a week ago, God dropped this one on me: “I am here”. And now I feel so relieved. God is here now. Not when I get published, convert a friend or do some other good deed. He is beside me in the present. In the waiting. And if my heart is in the right place – seeking Him – then He is already pleased.

The implications are enormous. The pressure is off; I don’t need to rush. I can let go of my frantic drive to accomplish something and embrace His peace. And it’s good.

With my previous mindset, I was limiting God. I didn’t think He was working because I couldn’t see it. So I strove to get myself to a place where God would use me. And I ignored the fact that God’s work is often unseen, and that it is always happening. Even in the waiting.

So now I’ll ask for His help to remember His truth: He is always with me and is always working. And I’ll pray that He keeps showing me areas where I need more reminding.