stress

Am I really relying on God?

I woke up this morning with a to-do list in my head.

In the next two days I’ve gotta talk to builders, do my tax, go to the dentist, edit my book, visit a friend, run home group, and write this blog. Oh, and go to work. And find clean clothes to wear.

It’s not impossible, but the list is taking up a lot of brain space. And making me a little tense.

But while I was thinking about it this morning, God was like, “Why are you concerned? I can deal with the blog. I can deal with the book. They’re both things that should happen in My time anyway.

“And the other things will all be done once these two days are over.

“So chill. I’ve got this.”

To which my response is, “Sweet. Please help me to be chill. And pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease let things go well at the dentist!”

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.

Phil 4:6-7 NIV

 

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Figuring out success

God’s challenged me this week not to make success an idol.

I’ve been getting a little stressed lately, just over the thought of possibilities in my writing future. Stuff like the edits will be endless, no publisher will like my book, and once I get published my career will tank within a couple of books.

All of those thoughts really been pounding through my head. That’s not from God. And that’s faithless. I need to hand that over to Him.

I write for two reasons: enjoyment, and obedience to God.

So where does stress factor into either of those two things?

Think about it: why would God want me to write? It’s not like He can’t think up His own words. No, God doesn’t need me to write at all. But He wants to take the journey with Him. And He wants me to learn to trust Him.

And what do I define success as, anyway? A relationship of love, trust and obedience with God. That may include a great writing career, a mediocre one or none at all.

My job is to simply do my best, and walk with God through it all.

A challenge to trust, remember the dance floor

the-sea-in-december

Mum challenged me with a question when I was worried about something over the weekend:

“How can you tell others to trust God when you can’t trust him in this circumstance?”

Snap!

She said it very nicely, but hit the nail right on the head.

It reminded me of this part of the Bible:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:25-33 NIV

 

I have to admit, I start sinking all the time, so Mum’s reminder is a good one. If I’m telling others to trust, it’s nothing less than hypocritical to not trust God myself. Understandable, in some circumstances, but still hypocritical.

So, how do I trust?

For me, it always helps to listen to the song ‘Oceans’, by Hillsong United. This is the song that got that critical draft of my book done in just 10 weeks before the writing conference last year. Every time I freaked out (happened on average every 3 hours), I listened to it. And it reminds me that God is bigger than whatever problem I’m focusing on.

I also have some go-to Bible verses, (Is 40, Phil 4:6-7, Ps 139 and Ps 55 are favourites) and I remember what I learned from Daisy: whatever’s happening, God can and will use it for His glory.

And prayer makes a difference. On Sunday I remembered this post from 2014, and how I used to spend time with God on the dance floor. That post really defined my prayer life for at least six months, but in the two years since I slowly forgot about it.

I’m glad God reminded me. 🙂 It was a really special thing, still is.

What about you? What do you do when your trust is challenged?

Share in the comments below!

 

What Does God Think About Fun?

 

Catching some rays at Bondi.

Catching some rays at Bondi.

Did you know that enjoying life can be part of being a good witness for God?

I sure didn’t. If anything, I thought the opposite; that enjoying yourself too much meant you weren’t spending your time and money on more worthy causes.

I was also overly aware of how things in life can go wrong. Even while having regular fun with my family or friends, I would clench up inside and think, “Remember, life won’t always be this good. I will get old, people will die, and things will get tough. Don’t get so used to the good things that you can’t handle the bad.”

Boy, I sound like a bundle of laughs, don’t I?

But I had a lightbulb moment in December as I sat with a friend, discussing whether I should go on a overseas holiday or not.

I expressed a concern that it was a lot of money just to spend on fun. He (a non-Christian) went on to tell me about a family member of his; a religious and very-obligation-driven person. He said he watched the way his family member lived and believed that her ‘religion’ sucked all the joy from her life.

I don’t want to be like that. That is not a good witness.

Since then, I’ve seen and heard little things during my day-to-day life that has reinforced this ‘revolutionary’ thought:

Joyfully embracing God’s gifts on earth brings him glory. Having fun can be part of being a good example of a God-follower. And being a grinch glorifies no-one.

So my one and44020957958040__405x720-ARGB_8888-1545801598 only New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to live a more joyful life.

I got off to a good start, enjoying a family Christmas at the beach before I travelled to Sydney to spend New Year’s with one of my brothers and some friends. We watched the famous fireworks at Sydney Harbour, tanned on Bondi Beach and ate at Darling Harbour’s Hard Rock Cafe.

Now I’m back at work, enjoying getting back into routine. However, my new routine is going to include a lot less pressure on myself and a little more downtime.

As part of that, I have decided to blog once a fortnight instead of every week. I will still post at the regular time, but it will be every second week starting from today.

I look forward to another year full of growth as we continue our journeys with God.

 

What about you? What did you learn over the holiday period? Share below!

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. 🙂

When God Shows Up

Copyright Creationswap, by David Gamboa.

Copyright Creationswap, by David Gamboa.

She wouldn’t know it, but a friend of mine totally had God work through her on Wednesday.

That particular morning as I walked to work, I was really struggling. The start of my week had been challenging, plus I haven’t had a holiday in a while so I’m pretty tired. The tiredness plus the challenges meant that I was just dreading the day ahead of me.

I’m struggling to explain it here, because a blog can’t capture the emotions or the timing or the circumstances around it. The thing was, even though I know it’s not true, for the past few weeks… maybe even months… I’ve had an overwhelming sense that God is disappointed in me.

Even though I know not to believe feelings—they can be deceptive—this feeling overwhelmed me till I could sense its icy touch in the depths of my soul. I sensed that God had been accusing me for weeks, even as I told myself that it wasn’t God. But for every comeback I came up with, the voice answered, Stop making up excuses! Shake off that apathy and work harder!

I couldn’t win. God was distant and angry, and I had failed.

I know it’s not right. I’ve fought it all the time. But on Tuesday, I was just too tired to fight it off anymore. So I cried on the phone to Mum instead. Wednesday didn’t start any better.

Never in my life have I considered chucking a sickie, but as I walked to work that morning I reeeeeeeeeeealy wanted to. In fact, I was on the verge of bursting into tears and pulling out my phone when I looked up and spotted my friend walking ten steps ahead.

It’s not unusual for us to see one another in the mornings–our workplaces are close together. But the timing was ridiculously good, and I knew it had to be God.

I jogged a few steps to catch up to her, and she asked how I was. I was honest and said Tuesday had been rough, and she said she’d pray for me during the day.

That was the reassurance I needed.

It was just one simple sentence, but my mind went from I can’t do this, I can’t do this, to, She’s praying. It’s gonna be okay. 

I could face the day again.

At lunchtime, I was talking to Mum and mentioned the encounter to her. She said she’d been praying that morning that God would show me his love in a tangible way.  And he did.

Wednesday was like a ray of light broke through the clouds. Through my friend’s simple listening ear and offer to pray, God clearly said, I’M NOT DISTANT. I’M NOT ANGRY. THAT WASN’T ME. I AM HERE. I CARE. I LOVE YOU.

And I was so relieved.

 

 

When the Point is Not the Point

Copyright Creationswap, image by Matt Cole.

Copyright Creationswap, image by Matt Cole.

What if an issue I’m having, is actually not the real issue at hand?

For instance, I’m planning to attend a writer’s conference in America next year. I am SUPER excited to head back to the States and meet real authors who can help me improve my craft. But there’s a few hurdles to overcome first.

When’s the right time to go? When will I be ready? Which conference should I attend?

And, the one that’s concerning me the most; who will I travel with?

So far I haven’t found a travel buddy. While doing the conference alone doesn’t bother me, travelling as a tourist after the conference does. I get lost in Australia; how will I find my way around the gigantic cities of the USA? And if I never find someone to come with me, will I get to go at all?

But the other day, something occurred to me.  I’ll bet that God’s not worried about which conference I choose or who I go with.

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Joe Davis.

Copyright Creationswap, photo by Joe Davis.

Sure , if He particularly wants me at one event  He’ll direct me toward it. If if a travel buddy is necessary, He will provide one. But I think the detail He is way more interested in is whether or not I trust Him.

It’s tempting to stress. It’s tempting to set a deadline and say, ‘God, you’d better give me an answer before this date, otherwise I can’t go and my world has crashed around me’.

But I’ve learned that God usually breaks those deadlines. I think it’s on purpose to stretch me.

Far more important than the fun of the trip, the networking I do and the skills I learn, is how my relationship with God fares during the process.

As the time draws nearer, will I wonder if He has lost control? Or will I pray about my concerns, do the best I can, and then trust it to Him?

Maybe the point of the conference, isn’t actually the point of the conference at all.

I faced the same situation months ago with my job. I didn’t know if I should find a new job, which one I should pursue, or if I should work two part-time jobs. I stressed and stressed and stressed.

At the end of the day, God probably wasn’t as concerned about the job as He was about my attitude.

I wasn’t really freaked out that God wouldn’t provide; I was more worried that I’d make the wrong choice. I didn’t trust that God would come through on His promise to guide me.

It was a painful lesson, but God’s helping me to not fall in the same trap this time.

Do you have any such issues in your own life?

 

 

 

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