This is a time of year that most people wonder why they are where they are, what they could have done differently, and what victories they feel comfortable celebrating over the last 365 days. Some people choose to make resolutions, some make promises, and some make peace with their past and try to survive. I have definitely been in all three places, sometimes just praying that I don’t fowl things up as badly as the year before, treading water and looking for land.
Perhaps you were raised with the same idea of struggle that I was: that you just make the attempt to power through and get the job done. I think I have finally realized that the personal pursuit of peace is awarded, rather than achieved, and it is sourced in the power and grace of God, not from my internal will to overpower the Devil on my own. I have always resolved to read more, pray more, study more, evangelize more, worship more. Is that right? Yes, yes, and yes. Why is it right? Not because I had now achieved spiritual awesomeness, but because I had put myself in the presence of God’s awesomeness.
Consider Moses’ ascent to the mountain to receive counsel from God. Whenever he returned to camp, he would veil his face because the people would not draw near him otherwise (Exodus 34:29-35). When he came back, people saw God’s awesomeness all over him, like the moon’s reflection of the sun’s light, we are a reflection of the Son’s light (Jn 1; I Jn 1).
The question is, when we desperately need answers, guidance, or counsel, who do we approach first? Our spouses? A mentor? A close friend? Same here: all three sometimes. What’s ironic is that the last counselor that I am accustomed to approach is God, the Father, who has the most power, visibility, and wisdom and whose will is pure and holy.
Something that he has revealed in 2013 and that has been affirmed in counsel with my wife and close friends is that sometimes, we need to rest, receive, and reflect before we react, respond, or reply. The difference is not necessarily in the time it takes for us to come back with an answer but the counsel we sought in the meantime. Give a fool a year to think on a problem, and he’ll spend the year convincing himself passionately that his original decision was the right one. There are many passionate performers in the world. Let’s think about proactive processing through the eyes of scripture:
1. Rest/Rely – lean on God, primarily, purposefully, and perfectly in your emotions and heart
2. Receive – learn from God in prayer, wait for His counsel, and be open to His response
3. Reflect – count the cost and consider the implications of His will being done
4. Rejoin – meet Him there in agreement
5. Recognize – know how you should perceive the stress, strain, or success
6. Recommend – praise God for His revelation
7. Resolve – make the decision to act according to God will
8. Respond – act specifically toward the situation in the way that will please God the most. Don’t react.
9. Relinquish – give to Him any remaining concerns and let Him take the weight
10. Rest – take peace and tranquility and do not act. This could even mean lying down!
Please don’t take this as a ten-step perfectly accurate depiction of every processing scenario. Sometimes, I rest on Him, and then I realize that He has already given the answer, so I praise Him and move forward, but the key is REST ON HIM. I prefer that focus because it doesn’t try to say “Do all this stuff and you’ll never be stressed.” God knows just what we need.
Question for you: How do you process life events, deep questions, losses, opportunities, wounds, ailments, stresses, pet peeves, successes, joys, blessings, and triumphs? Bringing God our thanks is just as significant as bringing him our complaints. I was told by my Bible class teacher that we should thank God twice as much as we ask of Him, and if we expect Him to do what we ask, we ought to do what He asks of us. Of course the ratio wasn’t the significant part, but the motives behind our communion with God are exceedingly important to Him because he values our hearts.
Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year, despite the cold weather, but for the last couple years, there has been an anxiety that creeps up on me that I have never really been able to explain. Last night, I came in from shopping for groceries for the week and I stooped down to the couch in tears. My wife just let me weep on her shoulder for a moment, which was much appreciated, and I let the feelings come forth that had been knocking at my door all day.
The holidays are a time of gifts and busyness and stress for many, and I have made a conscious effort to avoid letting it come to that. This year, after family was gone and all the presents had been unwrapped, and I realized that it was all over, I felt exceedingly empty. For the longest time, I have been afraid to admit what the problem was, and I think, as I told my wife, I am ready to talk about it.
People need people....and...People need freedom to be with their people.
We had the opportunity to hop on skype briefly with my brother and sister-in-law in the Hamptons and my brother and his wife in Maryland, and that kept my emotions at bay, but the simple truth was that I was not satisfied with just a few minutes. We never are really. Can you think of a time that you just wish that there were no jobs and no appointments and no commitments. Do you ever wish that you could just have more time?
Well, I am right there with you. A similar feeling came when I got a text message from my mom in Texas letting me know she wished she could be with us. It was an angst that I could not quench and that made everything seem so unfair. "Why couldn't it be like in high school and college when we got a month off for break? Do I really have to go in to work tomorrow?"
There's a reason that it seems so unfair. We crave relationships. We crave liberty to pursue those relationships. What if there was a way to have time for family whenever you wanted? What if there was a way to please God doing it? What if it also enhanced your faith, family, and finances? That would be a pursuit I could spend myself in.
Careers are great for a lot of people, don't get me wrong, but I would be willing to bet that most people, if offered the opportunity to have the end result of a job without having to spend time away from their families for 50 hours a week, would take it in an instant. I think any honest man could admit it. Even if you love your job or career, you know that it takes you away from the ones you love most.
Melissa and I have been rather successful in every job that we have held, but I earnestly pray for the glory of God and of the Kingdom that we do not spend another 2 years working in the job world. Whatever we do will be for His glory, but honestly, we love family entirely too much to give another ten thousand hours toward something that does not end in freedom. Our family and our God deserve more.
Maybe you feel the same, maybe not, but there came a point where I had to admit that the job that I was doing wasn't getting the job done. I hope you'll honestly consider if your career or job is getting you where you want to be in your spiritual life, with your loved ones, and even with the dollar bill. If not, why not?
Something that will help us is to get some feedback. We are inspired by the dreams of others. I want you to paint me a picture, even if it's just a sentence of what that Dream looks like. Be specific. These word pictures are given by God because He can empower you to fulfill them. God does not endue dreams that he cannot equip us for. Don't quit on those dreams.
What does freedom mean to you? (post below)